Montana man jumps to his death onto eastbound I-20

Published 1:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jeffery Casper loved to travel.

“He enjoyed being on the road; he didn’t like being tied down to one spot,” his father, Ken Casper said from his home in Lolo, Montana.

“He took off a couple of times when he was 28. I can remember one time he was riding the train across the Sierra Nevadas (mountain range), going from California to Nevada. He was saying how beautiful it was, the Sierra Nevadas,” Ken said. “And I remember he was talking about riding a train in Texas on one of his other trips and how he saw the cattle, miles and miles of cattle, and how it impressed him.

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“He had lot of friends from the streets who stayed in close contact with him. He had a lot of acquaintances in the community that travels around.”

In August, Jeffery Casper, 29, left again.

It was the last time his father, mother and sister would see him.

Wednesday morning, Jeffery jumped off the Halls Ferry overpass onto the eastbound lane of Interstate 20 in front of an 18-wheeler that swerved and missed him. He died later in the emergency room at Merit Health River Region from multiple injuries suffered in the fall. He was not struck by any other vehicle, police said.

His family was notified soon after.

“It’s been kind of fast,” his father said. “We’re just trying to digest (what happened).”

Ken said his son was born in Butte, Montana, and spent time in Helena. He received his GED in Lolo, where the family lives. He preferred the outdoors to being inside, and would occasionally go by the Bitter Root River, which flowed by Lolo, make a small fire, and sit on the bank.

“He did work in construction. He did pretty good in construction; he did painting houses and worked as a laborer,” Ken said. “He was doing house painting and residential painting for a while, and the last company he was with he did stucco. He mixed all their stucco and did the prep work.”

Jeffery, his father said, “Had a great heart. If someone needed something, he was willing to help out.

“I remember a friend of his in town’s father had Alzheimers, and he’s go over and take care of him. Another friend, his mom was a single mom, and if she needed something fixed or something, he’d go over and do it.

“He never wanted any money. Money was not important to him; he had a heart of gold.”

Vicksburg Police received a 911 call about 10:37 a.m. about a possible attempted suicide off the Halls Ferry overpass, and officers arrived at the scene to find Jeffery lying face down in the inside eastbound lane of I-20. He was taken by ambulance to Merit Health River Region, where he was pronounced dead by an emergency room doctor, Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey said.

The fall forced police to shut down the eastbound lane of I-20 during the preliminary investigation.

Deputy Vicksburg police chief Bobby Stewart said none of the witnesses questioned at the scene saw Jeffery jump, but said they realized something was wrong when cars ahead of them swerved to avoid hitting Jeffery lying on the ground.

Jeffery, his father said, “Was a little troubled; he couldn’t seem to find that happiness.

“He was doing quite well before he headed off on this last trip. He was making decent money, but he just quit the job in August and bought himself a plane ticket. He obviously wasn’t happy here. He just had the itching feet. He was loved by his mother and all of us; I think he knew that.”

Jeffery spent his last trip wandering in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, Ken Casper said, adding his son would check in occasionally during his travels.

“He had worked his way back to Mississippi,” he said. “Jeff loved Mississippi and told us how friendly they were when he was there one Thanksgiving a few years ago and a church came and took him to a holiday meal.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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