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Did a man die because a prisoner’s deadly warning was ignored?

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly four years ago Richmond murder suspect Devrick Raquan Gail wrote a long confession letter about his mental health problems and foreshadowed his future violence.

In the letter to a Richmond judge, Gail called himself a threat to society and asked to be transferred from prison to a mental health treatment facility. But that never happened, and shortly after he was released from prison three years later, Richmond police say he shot and killed a man.

Was Gail’s letter a cry for help or a warning?

In a Facebook video, Gail told doubters how he would prove them wrong after getting out of prison.

“I did 11 years the hard way, and I made it,” he said. “Anybody who gets intimidated by your ability to be successful, is not your friend.”

Gail said that he was going to defy the odds.

But police say the 29-year-old has already cost himself a shot at redemption in 2018.

On January 2, a man named Davon R. Daniels is gunned down on Coalter Street in Richmond’s Mosby Court neighborhood.

Gail was quickly identified as the suspect. He was arrested a month later.

In the days that follow, CBS 6 learned that Gail has a lengthy criminal record and he had recently been released from federal prison.

Some will say this is just another example of a violent criminal being given multiple chances to turn his life around and failing each time.

Davon R. Daniels

Others will view it as an indictment of a society where jobs and prospects are so scarce for felons, that they often have no choice but to return to a life of crime.

But this we know for a fact: despite his optimistic tone on social media, Gail saw himself as a threat to society. And society has viewed him as a menace since he was just a boy.

Known to friends and family members as Quan, Gail was just a high school student when his life of crime began. On a day when most Americans are surrounded by loved ones, gathered around a table and giving thanks.

But on November 25, 2004, the 16-year-old would eat his turkey dinner in a jail cell, after being arrested for shooting into a Richmond home.

Gail was later convicted, but most of his 10-year sentence was suspended, so within a few months he was back on the streets.

Then in October of 2005, he would find himself on the wrong side of the law again, arrested for assaulting a police officer inside Chesterfield`s Meadowbrook High School.

That case ended with another conviction, and though it only came with a one and half year prison sentence, it would be a long time before Gail would once again walk as a free man.

Devrick Gail

On August 1, 2006, a federal grand jury indicted him on one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Gail entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.

And since he had violated the terms of his probation in Richmond, more time would be added on, and Gail would have to spend the next decade behind bars.

But there was something else ordered by the judge.

Upon his release, Gail would be required to participate in a mental health program, to include anger management.

Fast forward 10 years to 2017, Quan Gail was released from federal prison in June, and moved into a halfway house. In late September, he moved in with a relative in South Richmond and was placed on home confinement.

Then on December 1, he began serving three years of supervised release.

Four weeks later, just a couple days after Christmas, Gail was scheduled to report to the behavioral awareness center on Hioaks Road for a mental health assessment, but he never showed up.

Less than a week later is when Richmond police say Gail shot and killed Davon Daniels.

Devrick Gail

Now he’s back in jail, charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

CBS 6 has learned that four years ago, he warned that something like this might happen.

While digging through his case file, CBS 6 discovered a letter that Gail sent to Judge Robert Payne in April of 2014, when he had about three years left of his sentence.

It was a letter written from solitary confinement, where Gail was awaiting a disciplinary hearing for fighting with another inmate.

According to Gail, it was the sixth such fight he’d been involved with in two years.

In the letter, Gail told the judge that he was mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted by his inability to control his anger and aggression.

He complained that he was only being treated with an endless list of psych medications, which would keep him in a sedated state of mind but wouldn’t treat the cause of his problems.

“In less than three years, I am scheduled to be released from prison. I can offer a monumental argument that I am more of a detrimental threat to society at this given moment than I was eight years ago,” he wrote.

"Anger, aggression, and violence all seem to be reoccurring themes in my emotionally imbalanced life."

"I am mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted... My inability to control anger and aggression keeps me in a continuous conflict with my environment and the people who are closest to my heart..." he continued.

Gail speculated that his behavior could be the result of an abusive childhood, while also worrying that it might be genetic. He claimed that his biological father had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Near the end of his letter, Gail requested that the judge have his prison sentence shortened, and then have him committed to an intense in-patient mental health treatment facility.

Two months later, Judge Payne sent Gail and his attorney a reply, writing that he could not grant his requests because the court no longer had jurisdiction to amend his sentence.

So, Quan Gail remained in prison.

But what could have happened if his letter foreshadowing future violence had ended up in different hands?

Would Quan Gail still be in jail today, accused of murder, if he had been moved from federal prison to a mental facility four years ago?

We’ll never know the answer to those questions.

But in a state that was shaken to its core by the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Advocates, lawmakers, and law enforcement are constantly talking about the need to identify warning signs.

“Using our correctional facilities as mental health institutions, that’s not the way it should be,” said Brian Moran, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

“Ninety-five percent of the inmates in our facilities are going back into the community eventually, so it is in all of our best interests to address their needs,” he added.

While unconnected to this case, Moran talked to CBS 6 about the steps that would be taken if the state were to receive the kind of letter sent by Gail.

“We would assess that individual immediately and evaluate whether or not there is indeed a mental health disorder, and then we would provide that individual services,” said Moran.

Brian Moran, Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security

He also said a missed mental health appointment would immediately raise a red flag.

“In this case it’s important that the probation officer would have known about the threat and then they would have been… provided some intensive supervision,” said Moran. “You can’t just leave somebody, a mentally ill on their own to do something and expect them to take care of their self. You’ve got to have some kind of controls.”

Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade, who is responsible for two regional jails, says that mental health is one of the biggest challenges they face.

“I don’t know that there’s an answer because it’s a problem that, you know, I’ve been talking about for 15-16 years,” said Sheriff Wade.

He said that the county has given him additional mental health staff, and they are constantly trying new methods of treatment.

“We actually have a group of inmates in the Orbit program that go to mental health once a week for a group session, and the idea is… if we can get them going there while they are in jail they’ll continue to go once they get out,” explained Wade.

Moran says the state has recently put more money into the budget to address the needs of inmates who exhibit warning signs, like Quan Gail.

“We won’t let them out until there is a plan to make sure they're going to continue to receive mental health treatment,” he added.

A family member tells CBS 6 Crime Insider Jon Burkett that Gail had a rough childhood, and believes things would have turned out differently, if there had been a father figure in his life.

Now he’s accused of taking a life and is facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in a place he vowed to never return.

Sheriff Wade said say that Judge Payne was in fact powerless to do anything after he received Gail’s letter, because once an inmate has entered the bureau of prisons, the judge no longer has authority to amend their sentence.

Burkett reached out to Gail’s former attorney to see if any other attempts were made but have not heard back. He also requested a jailhouse interview, but Gail declined.

He is due back in court on March 6.