Wendell Callahan’s grisly murders are going viral this week, with a popular Facebook picture claiming that the crack dealer murdered his ex-girlfriend and her two children after he was granted an early release by Barack Obama.
But while the details of the alleged murders are true, the meme picking up steam online appears to be overstating the role President Obama played in Callahan’s release.
Callahan’s story made headlines in Columbus earlier this year after police arrested him and accused him of a gruesome triple homicide. His alleged murders have since become fodder for attacks on Barack Obama, with a Facebook post from the Donald Trump backing page True America showing Callahan’s police booking photo along with the following words.
“MY NAME IS WENDELL CALLAHAN, PRESIDENT OBAMA GAVE ME AN EARLY RELEASE FROM PRISON EVEN THOUGH I WAS A VIOLENT CRACK HEAD.”
“YESTERDAY, I STABBED MY EX-GIRLFRIEND AND HER TWO YOUNG CHILDREN TO DEATH. IF OBAMA HAD LEFT ME WHERE I DESERVED TO BE, ALL 3 VICTIMS WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY.”
The circumstances in the alleged Wendell Callahan murders are chilling. The 35-year-old was charged with killing his ex-girlfriend, 32-year-old Erveena Hammonds, and the woman’s two young daughters, 7-year-old Breya Hammonds and 10-year-old Anaesia Green.
Police said Callahan went to his girlfriend’s home with a knife and stabbed all three victims to death, but was interrupted by Hammonds’ current boyfriend, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The two men fought and both ended up being stabbed, prompting Callahan to flee the scene.
Investigators said the aftermath was a bloody scene with all three women dead and both men hospitalized.
“It was obvious this was a brutal attack,” said police Sgt. Rich Weiner. “We don’t know if he was let in or forced his way in.”
And this was not the first time that Wendell Callahan attacked his ex-girlfriend, the Columbus Dispatch noted. In 2006, he was accused of beating her so severely that Hammonds said she “would have killed her if (a) good Samaritan didn’t pass by.”
After the facts of the story, however, the story going viral this week takes some twists and turns.
It is true that Wendell Callahan benefited from an early prison release. He was originally sentenced to serve 12-and-a-half years in federal prison, but changes to guidelines for crack cocaine dealing allowed him to cut four years off his sentence.
Though the slayings took place in January, in the weeks that followed the case started to gain national attention. In March, the website Judicial Watch took direct aim at the changes to sentencing guidelines under President Barack Obama.
“Callahan should have been in jail when the crimes occurred, but he was released four years early because federal sentencing guidelines for crack dealers got reduced. The change is part of President Obama’s effort to reform the nation’s justice system as a way of ending racial discrimination. The initiative was technically launched back in 2010 when the president signed a measure that for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences he claimed discriminated against poor and minority offenders.”
Others picked up on Callahan’s story, using it to portray Obama as soft on crime.
But this report — and the Wendell Callahan meme circulating this week — are both overstating the role Barack Obama played in the changes to sentencing guidelines. The hoax-debunking site Snopes noted that Callahan was released due to new guidelines from the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which was actually passed by Congress with bipartisan support.
So while it was signed into law by Barack Obama, the new guidelines were created with input and votes from both Democrats and Republicans. And it was not an act directly from President Obama to release Wendell Callahan.
[Photo by Saul Loeb/Getty Images]