Press Releases Result on Years

2022-11-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2022

On November 16, 2022, a Coweta County jury convicted Renargo Hutcherson of Kidnapping, Aggravated Stalking, Felony Battery- Family Violence, and Cruelty to Children in the Third Degree. After evidence of multiple prior convictions for other acts of Family Violence committed against multiple victims was presented at the sentencing hearing, Coweta Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer sentenced Hutcherson to 35 years in prison, which was the maximum sentence allowed by law. In addition, as required by Georgia’s kidnapping law, Hutcherson will not be eligible for parole for the first 20 years of his sentence. The case was investigated by the Newnan Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Jillian Brasfield and Jared Parrish.

Hutcherson and the victim began dating 10 years ago and were married in 2016. Their relationship was defined by abuse that was physical, emotional, and mental. Hutcherson dominated and micromanaged nearly every aspect of the victim’s life- through isolation, intimidation, manipulation, violence, and tightly enforced rules and regulations on her behavior. Over the course of the relationship, Hutcherson’s possessive, controlling, and violent behavior escalated both in frequency and intensity. Some of these abusive incidents resulted in the victim or other citizens calling law enforcement, however, Hutcherson was able to continue to abuse the victim.

In one such incident on September 18, 2018, which was indicted as Battery and presented in this jury trial, Hutcherson returned home from work in an irate state and attacked the victim, who was 9 months pregnant, and who was sleeping in bed with their 2-year-old son. After Hutcherson fell asleep, the victim, who had visible injuries from the assault, summoned the courage to call 911. Hutcherson was then arrested and received an order to have no contact with the victim while the case was pending. However, after the victim gave birth to their child, she and Hutcherson began to live together again in violation of the protective order.

In mid-2019, after another assault which left bruises on the victim’s arms and legs, the victim told her family that she was in an abusive relationship. With their support, on August 19, 2019, she packed her things and fled the residence with their kids. Hutcherson then stalked the victim for a week by calling her over a hundred times and repeatedly visiting her workplace, all of which violated the court order issued after the September 2018 arrest and constituted the crime of Aggravated Stalking.

On Friday, August 23, 2019, the victim left her workplace at the end of the day to find Hutcherson blocking in her vehicle and asking her to speak to him. Although the victim had maintained her opposition to Hutcherson throughout the week, he convinced her to get into his vehicle under the pretense that he would move his vehicle so another vehicle could get out of the parking lot. Instead, Hutcherson drove away with the victim in his car and took her against her will over two hundred miles away to South Carolina. After not hearing from her for several hours, the victim’s family contacted law enforcement who was able to locate Hutcherson and the victim in a hotel in South Carolina. This incident was the basis for the indicted charge of Kidnapping.

District Attorney Herb Cranford would like to commend the courage and strength of this survivor for enduring Hutcherson’s years of abuse and for having the courage to seek help and testify against him. As a result, Hutcherson will no longer be able to hurt her, their children, or any other women. This case demonstrates the commitment of the District Attorney’s Office to help victims of domestic violence become survivors by breaking the cycle of violence, and to remove violent domestic abusers from our community with substantial prison sentences.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-11-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2022

On November 7, 2022, Denarvious Kizavion Carter, a/k/a: “Lil’ Baby,” now 22 years old, of Manchester, pleaded guilty to Felony Murder, six counts of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Possession of Firearm during Commission of a Felony, and four violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. In accordance with a negotiated plea agreement, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer sentenced Carter to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole. Under Georgia law, with such a sentence, an offender must serve at least thirty years in prison before being eligible for consideration for parole.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne prosecuted the case. Newnan Police Department Sergeant Vic McPhie and Lieutenant Greg Vansant were the lead investigators. Carter was set to stand trial on November 14, 2022.

The investigation revealed the following: On December 30, 2018, around 9:00 pm, Carter fired at least ten shots from a 9mm handgun at the residence of 76 Savannah Street, in Newnan, Coweta County, Georgia, from a vehicle in which he occupied the passenger seat. One gunshot struck Aubria “Bria” Foster, who was 19 years old, in the torso as she was lying in bed in one of the front rooms of the residence. Ms. Foster succumbed to the wound that night. Five other victims occupied the residence at the time of the shooting, but were not hit.

Carter was a member of a set the “G-Shine” Bloods (also known as: the “Gangster Killer Bloods”), a criminal street gang out of Manchester. On June 3, 2018, a higher ranking G-Shine member had planned to purchase a gun from another person from Newnan at an apartment complex in Manchester. Carter was present alongside the higher ranking member for the would-be deal, which fell through, and resulted in a verbal altercation. Shortly thereafter, all parties present drove to another location in Manchester, where Carter fired shots at the other party. Later that evening, the higher ranking member’s mother’s house in Manchester was shot numerous times. His elderly mother was in the home at the time of the shooting but was not hit. After that shooting, Carter and other G-Shine Bloods in Manchester believed the party from Newnan was responsible for that shooting and believed that he resided on Savannah Street in Newnan.

On December 30, 2018, acting without order, approval, or authorization from higher ups in the gang—but instead with an intent to increase his own status in the gang—Carter set out to retaliate for the June shooting at the elderly woman’s house. The investigation, including Facebook messages from Carter’s account in the hours leading up to the murder, revealed Carter reached out to the leader of the set to borrow a firearm to “handle sum business (sic),” referring in another message to the people he believed were responsible for the prior shooting. Other Facebook messages from that evening revealed Carter reached out to another G-Shine member, Eric J. Snelling, a/k/a: “E-Rokk,” for a gun and messages to Snelling indicated Carter was coming to Newnan. Carter eventually procured a vehicle and drove to Newnan with another individual, Malindzo Hatcher, who was not associated with the gang, and went to Snelling’s house, which was one street over from the target house on Savannah Street. Snelling drove at Carter’s direction and Carter perpetrated the drive-by shooting from the passenger’s seat.

On November 3, 2022, Snelling pleaded guilty to six counts of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, four firearm counts, and two violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, agreeing to cooperate and testify truthfully against Carter in exchange for a sentence of 40 years with 15 years to serve in prison. He is yet to be sentenced. On November 8, 2022, for his role, Hatcher pleaded guilty to Tampering with Evidence and Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal, receiving a sentence of 20 years with 10 years to serve in prison, also conditioned upon cooperation and truthful testimony.

The victim, Bria Foster, and the defendant, Denarvious Carter, present opposing examples in life choices and mentality, and yet each of their lives have been ruined by Carter’s choice to act violently in an effort to increase his status in his criminal street gang. While both were young, 19 years old and 18 years old, respectively, at the time of this murder, Bria was a high school graduate, was taking college classes, and was actively involved in her church, especially through their dance ministry. Carter, on the other hand, dropped out of highschool, chose a life of gang violence, and bragged in messages to his fellow gang members about his desire to increase the Violent Crime Index in Meriwether County (see attachment, pages 4 & 5). It is telling and illustrative of the realities of criminal gang association that no one attended Carter’s guilty plea on November 7, 2022, on his behalf, while over 20 members of Bria’s family attended to see him be held accountable.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-10-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2022

On October 20, 2022, a Coweta County jury found Richard Keith Nelms, 38, guilty of Incest, Rape, Child Molestation, and Aggravated Child Molestation. Coweta County Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer presided over the three-day trial, and sentenced Nelms to 50 years to serve in prison without the possibility of parole, followed by a consecutive life sentence. Suffice it to say, this defendant will never be able to harm another child.

Assistant District Attorney Jared Parrish prosecuted the case with the assistance of lead investigator Sgt. Shawna Wade of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.

The evidence presented during the trial showed that Nelms raped, orally sodomized, and repeated molested his biological daughter, from the age of seven until she was ten years old, typically while the child’s mother was a work. The abuse began while Nelms was still married to the child’s mother, and continued after their separation and divorce.

The investigation began on June 19, 2019, when the victim’s mother – to whom the victim had disclosed the abuse – contacted both the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS) and the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. As part of Sgt. Shawna Wade’s investigation, the child was forensically interviewed at Twins Cedars Child Advocacy Center in Lagrange, at which time the child disclosed details of the abuse by her father. A sexual assault examination was performed on the child, revealing evidence consistent with the child’s disclosure of sexual abuse. Nelms was arrested on July 11, 2019, where he remained in custody at the Coweta County Jail awaiting trial.

At trial, the victim, now 14 years old, bravely testified about the years of abuse she endured. While there was evidence to corroborate her testimony, the victim was the only person who could testify to what she experienced, which is the reality of most sex-crime cases. The DA’s Office is in awe of this victim’s courage
and perseverance through years of abuse and through her testimony in the courtroom. We thank all who participated in seeing that justice was done in this case.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-10-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2022

On October 21, 2022, a Meriwether County jury found Dustin Michael Green, 38, guilty of Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder, two Counts of Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Assault and False Imprisonment. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon presided over the trial and sentenced Dustin Michael Greene to Life without the possibility of parole plus eighty years.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Marlow prosecuted the case and Dep. Tyler Leverett of the Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office was the primary law enforcement officer and was assisted by District Attorney’s Office Inv. Jason Newsome.

The evidence presented at the trial showed that Dustin Michael Greene brutally attacked his mother in her own home and tried to kill her. On December 22, 2020, the defendant’s mother allowed Greene to come home for Christmas and even traveled to College Park to pick him up. Greene became irate that very evening when his mother made it clear he would not be able to stay at her residence past the holidays. That night Greene attacked his mother from behind as she walked up the stairs to her bedroom and placed her in a choke hold. After a struggle, his mother was able to break away from him and head downstairs to try to get to her phone. However, Greene caught her in the hallway, placed her in a chokehold again, dragged her into the bathroom, and began to fill the bath tub with water. He then forced his mother into the tub, attempted to drown her, while telling her he would kill her. His mother fought for her life and was able to escape when the Defendant slipped on the floor.

His mother ran to the next door neighbors, who did not initially recognize her due to her injuries, which included a broken nose and damage around her eyes. They called the Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office, who was able to take Greene into custody without incident. The victim was taken to the hospital for her injuries.

At trial, Green’s mother gave heart-wrenching testimony against her son. Because the State used the Defendant’s six prior felony convictions to invoke the application of Georgia’s Recidivist statute, the victim knew a conviction to any of the charges would likely mean substantial prison time without the possibility of parole. With the support of her family, she spoke the truth about what she suffered at the hands of her son, and the jury spoke the truth with their guilty verdict on all counts. I am thankful to the jury, the Sheriff’s Department, the Court, the Meriwether community, and especially the victim for seeing that justice was done in this case.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-09-30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2022

On September 30, 2022, Mark Anthony Starnes, 46, was found guilty of Rape, two counts of Aggravated Child
Molestation, and two counts of Child Molestation, by a Carroll County jury. Coweta Judicial Circuit Acting-
Superior Court Judge Michael Hubbard presided over the trial, which stretched on for two weeks from
September 19 until September 30. Sentencing has been scheduled for November 14, 2022.

Assistant District Attorney Scott O. Teague, of the Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, prosecuted
the case and Inv. Ametrice Jackson of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was the lead law enforcement
investigator. The prosecution was assisted by Chief Deputy Inv. Rebecca C. Byrd and Victim Advocate Katelynn
Culbreath of the District Attorney’s Office for the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

The evidence that came out at the two-week trial showed that Starnes raped, orally sodomized, and repeatedly
molested the victim, from a young age until she was 12 years old. Starnes was able to abuse the victim during this
time period due to his relationship with the victim’s mother, which gave Starnes regular access to the victim.
That access included staying in the same residence as the victim overnight and babysitting the victim, during
which Starnes regularly sexually assaulted the victim. The last time Starnes raped and abused the victim in
Carroll County was in 2019 when he came up from his new home in Florida to take her and her mother down to
the beach.

The investigation began on April 24, 2020, when the victim disclosed the abuse to a relative, who then told the
victim’s mother. The victim’s mother contacted the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, and Inv. Ametrice Jackson
began her investigation, which included speaking with the victim who was 13 years old at the time. The victim
was taken to the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
where a sexual assault examination was performed, which revealed evidence consistent with the sexual abuse
the victim recounted. The victim was then taken to the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center where she disclosed
more details about the abuse. Starnes was arrested in Florida in July 2020, and extradited to Carroll County
where he remained in jail awaiting trial.

At trial, the victim, who is now 15 years old, endured cross-examination for more than a day in an attempt by the
defense to discredit her testimony. However, the young victim persevered through the attacks against her to tell
the truth about what she endured. We’re thankful the jury saw the truth in this case and spoke the truth through
their verdict by finding Starnes guilty of all counts.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-08-29

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2022

On August 26, 2022, after a weeklong trial, a Coweta County jury found Mikelle Howard Harrison, 23, of Columbus, and Cody Lamar Mercer, 20, of Columbus, guilty of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Criminal Attempt to Commit Entering an Automobile, Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Armed Robbery, and Possession of Firearm during Commission of a Felony. After the jury returned its verdict, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer sentenced Harrison to serve life in prison, without the possibility of parole, followed by 37.5 years, and sentenced Mercer to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole, followed by 5 years. Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger prosecuted the case. Newnan Police Department Lieutenant Chris Robinson was the lead investigator.

The evidence at trial showed that, on December 2, 2020, at approximately 3:10 am, NPD officers responded to a person shot at Jefferson Grove Apartments in Newnan. There they found Jaylin Everett, 22, suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim’s girlfriend was also present and told officers that three men attempted to rob them in the parking lot of the Jefferson Grove Apartments, where the victim and his girlfriend resided. The victim had just returned from picking up his girlfriend from her place of employment in Fairburn; her shift ended around 2:30 am.

Upon arriving at Jefferson Grove, Mr. Everett noticed some men acting suspiciously near some other vehicles in the parking lot. The three men were each armed with a handgun, approached Everett, and demanded his property while brandishing handguns. Mr. Everett was also armed and attempted to protect himself and his girlfriend. A shootout ensued. One of the suspects was struck in the foot and Mr. Everett was struck in the neck. Forensic firearms evidence showed that Harrison fired ten times, and showed that the fatal shot was fired from his weapon. The evidence showed Mercer fired twice. The third gunman was identified as David Alberto Berrio, 35, of Columbus, who brandished his firearm during the assault but did not discharge it. After the shootout, the three perpetrators ran to their getaway vehicle, driven by Angelina Marie Plemons, 19, of Columbus, and fled the scene.

NPD Detectives were quickly able to identify the suspect vehicle and then the perpetrators. Once apprehended, Mercer, Berrio, and Plemons all confessed to their roles in the homicide. Harrison fled the state and was eventually apprehended in Michigan. According to the evidence, the four traveled to Atlanta from Columbus to break into cars earlier in the evening. On the way back to Columbus, they detoured to Newnan to continue their crime spree. They happened upon Jefferson Grove minutes before Mack and Everett arrived home. Prior to trial, Berrio and Plemons agreed to testify truthfully in the trial of their codefendants. As a result, in consideration for their cooperation and relative culpability, Berrio will receive a 40 year sentence with 25 to serve in prison and Plemons will receive a 20 year sentence to serve 15 years.

This tragic case provides a stark contrast between those who choose to commit violent felonies and contribute nothing but suffering to our society and those who choose to live honorable lives by following the law and contributing positively to our community. The victim in this case was a responsible young man with no criminal history who had just gotten home from picking up his girlfriend from her job. In contrast, these defendants had spent their day committing felonies throughout the state of Georgia, and rather than walk away when this victim tried to defend himself, his girlfriend, and his property, they murdered him. The District Attorney’s Office is thankful that this victim and his loved one received a measure of justice with these convictions and substantial prison sentences.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-08-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2022

On August 4, 2022, a Carroll County jury found Antonio Lamar Thurman guilty of Aggravated Battery, two counts of Aggravated Assault, two counts of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony, and one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. Carroll County Magistrate Court Judge Michael Hubbard presided over the case after being specially appointed to do so by Carroll County Chief Superior Court Judge John Simpson. Thurman will be sentenced on September 2, 2022.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Robert Peterkin prosecuted the case with the assistance of Investigator Jeremy McCormick of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. The evidence showed the following:

At around four o’clock on the morning of September 11, 2021, the defendant, Antonio Thurman, was attending a house party on Shady Grove Road. The defendant became enraged for unknown reasons with another guest at the party. The defendant and this guest got in a fight, which concluded with the other guest being choked by the defendant almost to the point of unconsciousness on the porch steps of the residence. Unnamed guests at the party intervened to stop this conflict and separated the defendant from the person being choked.

Several moments later, the defendant retrieved a firearm from a bag he had previously been wearing, and fired two shots toward the guest he fought. This guest was on the porch with numerous bystanders when the defendant fired shots at him. One of the bullets struck the leg of a woman who was inside of the residence at the time of the shooting. This victim was treated at a local hospital and spent two months in a wheelchair as a result of her injuries.

It should be noted that the guest who was strangled refused to testify in this case. However, although the shooting victim was hesitant to testify, she and only one of the many witnesses on the porch testified at trial. Additional evidence included video recordings obtained by investigators which showed the defendant choking the other guest and then shooting a gun at him. This case shows that the District Attorney’s Office and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department will do everything possible to hold violent offenders accountable for the terror they inflict in our neighborhoods. The District Attorney’s Office understands that witnesses are often afraid to testify, but too often witness reluctance allows violent felons like this defendant to avoid accountability and continue to victimize other members of our community.

The District Attorney hopes the resolve to seek justice for the guest that was shot at, and the female victim that was shot in the leg, will give courage to others in our community who are victims of violence and witnesses to violence to come forward and speak the truth. As this case shows, when law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office have the evidence, we will fight for justice and seek to remove violent offenders from our community.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-07-01

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 1, 2022

On June 29, 2022, a Carroll County jury convicted Farlin Enrique Banegas-Ruiz, 23, of Rape, Statutory Rape, two counts of Aggravated Child Molestation, two counts of Incest, and two counts of Child Molestation. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower presided over the trial. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 22, 2022.

Assistant District Attorney Maggie Meetze and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger prosecuted the case. Lieutenant Blake Hitchcock of the Carrollton Police Department was the lead investigator.

The investigation began on May 6, 2020, when the minor victim showed her mother a diary entry disclosing that an adult male relative, the defendant, had raped her three days prior. The victim was taken to the Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where a sexual assault examination revealed physical injuries consistent with the victim’s disclosure. The victim was interviewed at the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center, where it was further revealed that the defendant touched the victim’s intimate parts in numerous ways that violated Georgia law.

I am thankful to the Carroll County jurors for validating the child victim’s courageous decision to testify in open court about these crimes by delivering a verdict of guilty in all counts. This case is a testament to the exemplary working relationship that exists between the Carrollton Police Department, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Carroll County Child Advocacy Center, and the Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. All of these organizations work together to protect children, to expose the truth, and to obtain justice.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-06-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2022

On June 10, 2022, in the Superior Court of Troup County, Antaveis Dishoun Sands, a/k/a: “Shine,” now 25 years old, of LaGrange, pleaded guilty to charges in three indictments: on Indictment No. 21-R-699, Sands pleaded guilty to five violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, one count of Armed Robbery, one count of aggravated assault, and three felony gun crimes; on Indictment No. 22-R-058, Sands pleaded guilty to one violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act; and on Indictment No. 21-R-796, Sands pleaded guilty to one count of Robbery by Force. In accordance with a plea agreement, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Markette Baker sentenced Sands to 40 years, with the first 25 years to be served in prison.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne prosecuted the case. LaGrange Police Department Detective Charlie Brown, LPD Gang Investigator William Norris, and Troup County Sheriff’s Office Investigator James Robson were the lead investigators.

The charges resulted from two incidents Sands perpetrated in the City of LaGrange and one while in custody in the Troup County Jail. In the incident alleged in Indictment No. 21-R-699, on July 16, 2021, Sands met the victim on Melrose Drive under the pretense of buying a firearm from the victim. Once the victim went into his own vehicle to retrieve the gun that he thought he was selling, Sands pointed a handgun at the victim’s head before proceeding to strike the victim in the head with that gun, commonly referred to as “pistol-whipping.” Sands then stole the firearm that was to be sold, as well as another handgun from the victim’s waistband, and the victim’s wallet. During the pistol-whipping, the force from the blows cause a laser attachment to be dislodged from Sands’s handgun. When Sands was apprehended on July 19, 2021, investigators recovered one of the stolen firearms in his vehicle. The investigation also revealed that, within an hour of the victim reporting he had been robbed, Sands recorded a video on his phone depicting the two stolen firearms, and that Sands sent a text message to an associate of his, boasting in part, “I just slime this n**** for 2 trips.” In Bloods gang lingo, to “slime” someone commonly means to rob, and “trip” is a common term for a handgun. The investigation also demonstrated that Sands was a member of the “G-Shine,” a/k/a: “Gangster Killer Bloods,” set of the Bloods criminal street gang, and that the commission of these offenses were motivated by his participation in the violent gang’s activities.

Sands was on felony First Offender probation at the time of these offenses, having been released from prison in April of 2019 for multiple counts of Entering an Automobile and theft. The other two cases to which Sands pleaded guilty remain pending, with codefendants whose cases have not resolved.

This case and the sentence given is another example of what gang members who commit violent crimes in our community can look forward to unless they leave the criminal gang lifestyle behind.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-05-20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2022

On May 19, 2022, a Coweta County Jury found Derrol Allen Grant guilty on all counts in Case No. 22-R-213. Presiding Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison described the case during sentencing as “the worst child molestation case [he had] ever seen.” He then sentenced Grant to serve five consecutive life sentences followed by sixty years for four counts of Aggravated Child Molestation, one count of Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, one count of Aggravated Sexual Battery, and three counts of Child Molestation.

The investigation was initiated on August 31, 2018, when the Newnan Police Department received notification that one of the child victims disclosed to a friend, who told a school counselor, that Grant had sexually abused the victim for the past six years. The investigation, which included a series of forensic interviews at Southern Crescent Child Advocacy Center, revealed that other children had witnessed some of the incidents of sexual abuse. By the time the case proceeded to trial, which had been delayed by the Covid pandemic, two additional victims of this Defendant had been identified. All three victims testified at trial.

Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Jillian Brasfield, who was 9 months pregnant, ADA Christine Caldwell, and ADA Jared Parrish, prosecuted the case. Sergeant Brandon Kline with the Newnan Police Department was the lead investigator.

District Attorney Cranford wishes to convey his immense respect for the bravery of the victims and the witnesses who had the courage to disclose this abuse and testify about it. These victims persevered through years of abuse and for another four years waiting on a trial, and they have finally received the affirmation and justice they deserve. This case shows members of our community that child victims will be taken seriously and that law enforcement and prosecutors will fight to get them justice. Just as importantly, this case should be understood by child abusers, like Grant, that the Coweta Circuit District Attorneys Office will do everything in its lawful power to hold them accountable and remove them from society.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-03-12

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2022

This week Kevin James Lee was brought to trial in front of a Coweta County Jury for the crimes of Murder and Concealing the Death of Victim Ann Margaret Berry in 1991. The victim was reported missing in 1991 by her sister, her body was found in 2011, the defendant was indicted for her murder in 2012, and the defendant was finally arrested in California in 2018. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced the defendant to life in prison with the possibility of parole, which was the only allowable sentence under the law that applied at the time the crime was committed.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew S. Swope prosecuted the case and Major John Lewis of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) was the lead investigator. This victim would not have received justice but for the relentless pursuit of justice by the victim’s sister and the dedication of Major Lewis over many years. Additionally, ADA Matt Swope worked tirelessly to prepare and present this trial, which consisted of evidence gathered over 30 years ago.

The evidence presented showed that the victim was an incredibly dedicated mother who would have never abandoned her children. In the spring of 1991, the victim discovered she was pregnant with her third child and seemed very excited about it. However, friends and family described the victim and defendant’s relationship as tumultuous. They argued often and the defendant was known to push, slap, and hit her. The victim’s family saw bruises and marks on the victim’s body and face, and saw holes in the walls of the home where the victim had been thrown into the walls.

On July 4, 1991, the victim contacted her sister and asked if she and her children could move in to the sister’s home because the victim could no longer take the abuse from the defendant. On July 31, 1991, at approximately 8:00 p.m., the victim contacted her sister again and in the background, her sister heard the defendant yelling at the victim and heard the children crying. This call was especially unusual as the victim never called during fights and would normally speak to her sister only after these fights. The victim said she was packing her and the children’s belongings and would be driving to her sister’s house in about an hour. The victim never showed up and was never heard from again.

Her sister called her multiple times that night and during the next day and drove by the house but made no contact with the victim. Her sister finally spoke with the defendant who told her that the victim had run off with her boyfriend and left the children. However, the victim’s sister knew that the victim did not have a boyfriend. Within a week, the defendant had taken the children and moved to Kansas. When the victim’s sister went to the home to clean it out, she found the victim’s clothing, jewelry, makeup and other personal effects still in the residence.

In the time after the victim’s disappearance, the defendant told inconsistent stories about the victim running away. In addition to the story about the boyfriend, he stated that she left with a white guy in a van, a black guy in a truck, and with a cocaine dealer. However, the defendant never filed a missing person’s report for his wife and the mother of his children. It was the victim’s sister who kept looking for her sister and filed missing person’s reports in 1991 and 1997.

On April 15, 2011, two boys who lived near the victim’s former residence were camping in the woods less than 100 yards behind the home. As they dug a fire pit, they came across a buried plastic bag containing skeletal remains. CCSO and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation exhumed the unmarked grave to find a complete skeleton. Over the next year, with the assistance of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification and Forensic Anthropologist Dr. MariaTeresa A. Tersigni-Tarrant, the remains were identified as the victim.

CCSO Major John Lewis initiated an investigation and interviewed anyone who knew the victim and defendant. Major Lewis discovered the history of abuse and the litany of tales told by the defendant relating to the victim’s disappearance. Over 20 years after the victim’s disappearance, on May 8, 2012, Major Lewis obtained warrants against the defendant for murder and concealing the death of another. In 2018, the defendant was found living in California where he was arrested and extradited in early 2019 to Coweta County.

On March 7, 2022, more than 30 years after her murder, the victim’s case was brought to trial in the Superior Court of Coweta County. ADA Matthew Swope presented testimony of the victim’s family and friends, the testimony of Major Lewis, CCSO personnel and GBI agents, and Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant. After two days of testimony and evidence, it took the jury approximately one hour to return a verdict of Guilty on both counts: Murder and Concealing the Death of Another. After more than 30 years, Ann Margaret Berry’s killer was brought to justice.

District Attorney Herb Cranford wishes to convey his immense respect for the victim’s sister, who never stopped looking for her and who fought for justice for 30 years. Without her, this case would not have resulted in a guilty verdict. The DA further wishes to commend the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, and Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant for their effort, against long odds, to give this victim justice. These agencies and this office will not give up on any unsolved murder case until justice is obtained for the victim.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-03-11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2022

On March 10, 2022, Avery Hogan Pendergraph of LaGrange, Georgia, pleaded guilty to multiple crimes involving the sexual exploitation of women and children. Pursuant to a negotiated guilty plea, Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Pendergraph to 50 years in prison for his crimes followed by 20 years probation, which include special conditions of probation for sex offenders. Pendergraph pled guilty to two counts of racketeering (“RICO”), five counts of sexual exploitation of children, nine counts of invasion of privacy, one count of criminal trespass, and one count of possession of eavesdropping devices. During the lengthy guilty plea proceeding, six of his victims appeared before the court and delivered impactful and emotional statements detailing years of abuse by Pendergraph.

An 18-month investigation by the LaGrange Police Department, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation revealed that Pendergraph’s crimes began as early as 2012 when he videotaped and photographed women he was dating without their knowledge or consent. He then uploaded the videos and photos to adult internet pornography websites in the United States and throughout the world. He created hundreds of email accounts and website accounts in the actual names of his victims, which also identified their occupations and their locations. He created “deep fake” photos using non-nude photos from the social media accounts of friends and acquaintances and nude photos of other women he obtained from the internet. These fake photos were uploaded using the names and identifying information of his victims. He hid video cameras in private and public bathrooms and videotaped men, women, and children using the bathroom, which he edited and uploaded to off-shore file-sharing websites. He acquired and distributed hundreds of child pornography videos and photos featuring the molestation of infants, toddlers, and minor children.

Following a thorough review of the evidence proving all of these crimes, Senior Assistant District Attorney David McLaughlin presented an 18-count indictment in August 2021 to the Troup County Grand Jury. The indictment charged Pendergraph under Georgia’s racketeering (“RICO”) statute with state and federal crimes related to the distribution of obscene materials, the distribution of child pornography, and the fraudulent use of the identities of his victims. As alleged in the indictment:

“On and between March 18, 2016, and June 4, 2020, the accused engaged in an elaborate, systematic, and invasive scheme to acquire, maintain, and distribute thousands of obscene materials depicting children, men, and women in violation of State and federal laws. The accused’s scheme was intended to satisfy the prurient interests of himself and others. The accused’s scheme was intended to sadistically exploit, harm, embarrass, and exert the accused’s control and dominion over his victims. The accused’s scheme was intended to exalt himself through voyeuristic control over and sexualized exploitation of women and children.”

Pendergraph is also currently under indictment in Athens-Clarke County for rape and aggravated sodomy.

District Attorney Cranford believes Pendergraph is a very dangerous sexual predator who should remain incarcerated with no opportunity to harm these victims further or to target new victims. The District Attorney commends the tireless efforts of LaGrange Police Department Detective John Slonaker, Athens-Clarke County Detective Scott Prah, and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Haylee Peacock for putting this case together. The District Attorney also commends the tenacious work of Sr. ADA McLaughlin in obtaining this negotiated lengthy prison sentence. But most of all, the District Attorney wishes to praise the resilience and courage of the women who were victimized for so long and who hopefully feel some comfort in knowing this predator has received a measure of the justice he deserves.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-02-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2022

On February 3, 2022, Lacario Darnell Smith, of Senoia, Georgia, was found guilty of Malice Murder, Possession of
a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony by a Coweta
County jury. After considering the evidence presented at sentencing, including Smith’s two prior felony
convictions for Burglary and Aggravated Assault, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison
sentenced Smith to Life Imprisonment without the possibility of parole followed by 5 years imprisonment.

Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian prosecuted the case. Investigator Bobby Crowdis of
the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator.

On the evening of May 11-12, 2019, Lacario Smith showed up to a community building in Senoia in the Blackjack
community. That evening a family had rented the building to celebrate a young woman’s 21st birthday. Smith
was not part of this family or invited to the birthday party. However, the victim in this case, Olando Maynard, was
part of the family and was present at the birthday party for his cousin. Smith, a convicted felon, unlawfully
brought a firearm to this event, where he later admitted he was “drunk as hell.” For reasons unknown to Mr.
Maynard’s family in attendance, while Mr. Maynard was speaking to one of his cousins, Smith came from behind
Mr. Maynard, and without any warning, suddenly placed a pistol up to Mr. Maynard’s head and pulled the trigger.
Lacario Smith then walked around Mr. Maynard, who was on floor unarmed, incapacitated, and dying, and Smith
fired his gun twice more at Mr. Maynard, striking him in the groin area and shoulder. Smith attempted to flee the
scene, but was subdued by family members outside, where he was arrested by responding officers.

I commend the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office for their great work on this case. We appreciate the service of the
Coweta County jurors that acted as fact finders in this trial. In being held accountable for this senseless murder,
the DA’s office believes justice has been served and that our community is a safer place as a result.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2021

On September 29, 2021, Kahsai Berhane Goitom, of Santa Rosa, California, was found guilty of Trafficking Methamphetamine, More Than 400 Grams by a Carroll County jury. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge William Hamrick sentenced Goitom to 30 years to serve in prison and a one million dollar fine. This was the maximum prison sentence under the law and the mandatory fine for this amount of Methamphetamine.

Assistant District Attorneys Maggie Meetze and Karlie Hightower prosecuted the case. Special Agent Paul Skinner of the West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office (WMRDEO) of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was the lead investigator.

On May 14, 2019, Goitom and his co-conspirator, Guy Anthony Robinson, were arrested by WMRDEO agents at a gas station in Bremen, Georgia, as the defendants delivered 4,000 grams of methamphetamine, 28 grams of heroin and fentanyl to the location. Robinson arrived first with 1,286 grams of the methamphetamine, and Goitom arrived minutes later with 2,714 grams of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl. On Friday, September 24, 2021, Robinson chose to take responsibility prior to trial and entered into a negotiated plea agreement to Trafficking Methamphetamine, More than 400 Grams. He was sentenced to 25 years to serve in prison and a one million dollar fine.

I commend the West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office for their commitment to holding accountable those who are responsible for transporting and selling large amounts of illegal drugs. We appreciate the service of the Carroll County jurors that acted as fact finders in this trial. The DA’s Office will continue to seek multi-year prison sentences for drug traffickers, like Mr. Goitom and Mr. Robinson, who seek to profit from those who suffer from addiction.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2021

On September 20, 2021, Alexander Marcelle Lee, 23, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children. Lee entered a non-negotiated guilty plea and Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Lee to 20 years, with the first 15 years to be served in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Lara Myers prosecuted the case. Investigator Courtney Short of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator.
In July 2020, the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office referred a tip from the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. Investigator Short investigated the tip, which indicated a person was sending suspected child pornography over the internet. Inv. Short identified Defendant Lee as the suspect and obtained search warrants for Lee’s electronics and his Facebook account. Following the execution of the search warrants, 15 images/videos depicting children engaging in sexually explicit conduct were found to have been sent from Lee’s Facebook account to another account. During the investigation, Lee was taken into custody and interviewed, at which time he admitted to sending the child pornography, to viewing child pornography for over a year, and to seeking out child pornography.

I commend the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for its swift and thorough response to this ICAC tip. Investigator Short conducted a thorough investigation and skillfully interviewed the defendant to obtain his confession. Although Defendant Lee maintained that this was a victimless crime, every one of these videos and images involved a child victim of sexual abuse. The viewers of these images create a market for the images and incentivize their creation. Consequently, this Office will seek justice for the victims of these crimes and prison sentences for those who possess child pornography.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2021

On September 23, 2021, at the calendar call for jury trials scheduled for the week of September 27, 2021, Corey Lee Daniel, 32, of Bowdon pleaded guilty to one count of Aggravated Assault, and two counts of Aggravated Battery. Daniel entered a non-negotiated guilty plea, after which Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Bill Hamrick sentenced Daniel to 20 years, with the first 15 years to be served in prison, also requiring that Daniel be banished from the Coweta Judicial Circuit when he is released from the Department of Corrections custody.

Assistant District Attorney Lara Myers prosecuted the case. Bremen Police Department Chief Brent Christopher, who was with the Bowdon Police Department at the time of the incident, was the lead investigator.

The evidence at trial would have shown that, on December 19, 2016, Daniel beat the victim repeatedly with a metal pipe. Daniel began attacking the victim as she was asleep in bed. After she initially was able to fend him off, Daniel continued assaulting her, striking her multiple times in the head, knocking her down, and chasing her through the residence. The victim’s screams woke up the homeowners, who were able to disrupt Daniel’s attack. Daniel then fled the scene, and law enforcement authorities apprehended him the following day. As a result of the assault, the victim underwent surgery for a skull fracture and brain bleeding.

The victim in this case not only suffered extreme physical injuries but also has had to deal with continuing trauma because of this brutal attack. My office remains committed to standing with victims of violence and asking the Court to impose substantial prison sentences for acts of violence.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2021

On September 17, 2021, Randall Harold Kittle, 51, of Carrollton, GA, pleaded guilty to two counts of Aggravated Child Molestation. Following plea negotiations and in anticipation of a September 27 trial date, Kittle entered a guilty plea, wherein Kittle agreed to serve 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by 20 years on probation. He will be subject to a number of sex offender conditions ofprobation, including being prohibited from any contact with a person under the age of 18. Senior Assistant Sarah Japour prepared the case for trial and handled the guilty plea. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower accepted the plea and ordered the sentence.

On April 8, 2019, the child victims disclosed to school system personnel that the Defendant, their stepfather, had been sexually abusing them for a number of years while they and their mother lived with him. The victims made the disclosure at the prompting of their classmates, one of whom had received text messages from the Defendant which made them uncomfortable. Following the outcry, investigators identified the Defendant as having been previously convicted of Child Molestation on May 19, 1999, for which he was sentenced to six years in prison followed by nine years on probation. While the Defendant was required to register as a sex offender for life as a result of the 1999 conviction, his sex offender conditions of probation, which prohibited contact with children, expired in 2014. Although law enforcement and the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) investigated the fact that the Defendant was living with children in 2015, no allegations of child abuse were uncovered and there was no lawful basis to remove the Defendant or the children from the residence at that time.

Following the 2019 outcry, the victims were interviewed by professional interviewers at the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center (CC-CAC), who are trained to interview children, they were medically examined at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), and the case was investigated by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. This successful prosecution is a testament to the team approach taken by law enforcement, the school system, the CC-CAC, CHOA, and the DA’s Office to find the truth and obtain justice when children outcry about abuse. However, the lion’s share of the credit for this prosecution goes to the two young victims and their friends, as it would not have been possible without their support for one another and their courage in bringing this abuse to the attention of authority figures.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2021

On September 9, 2021, at the Calendar Call for jury trials scheduled before Judge Bill Hamrick for the week of
September 27, 2021, Timothy Lee Hatmaker, 29, of Villa Rica pleaded guilty to two counts of Cruelty to Children in
the First Degree and Aggravated Battery, Family Violence. In accordance with a negotiated plea agreement, Coweta
Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Bill Hamrick sentenced Hatmaker to 30 years, with the first 20 years to be
served in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Lara Myers prosecuted the case. Investigator Kimber Biggs of the Carroll County
Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator.

The charges arose from an incident on March 27, 2019, when deputies responded to Tanner Medical Center in
response to a 6 month old female who had received significant injuries. Once on scene, law enforcement learned
that Hatmaker’s 6 month old daughter had been transported to Tanner having seizures. The infant was later
transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta where she was treated for brain bleeds, retinal hemorrhages, and
was found to have healing rib fractures. Deputies began investigating and conducting interviews. During the course
of the investigation, Hatmaker admitted that his daughter had been crying and he threw her down onto the ground,
after which she began screaming and seizing. He also admitted that about two months prior, while she was crying,
he squeezed the child around her chest, that being consistent with the healing injuries observed.

I commend ADA Myers and Investigator Briggs for their hard work and commitment to getting justice for this
defenseless child. This office will seek a substantial prison sentence for any person, like Defendant Hatmaker, who
would so severely harm a child. In this case, justice was served by removing this defendant from free society for
two decades.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2021

On September 9, 2021, at the Calendar Call for jury trials scheduled before Judge Bill Hamrick for the week of
September 27, 2021, Jeffery Fitzgerald Clemons, 57, pleaded guilty to two counts of Armed Robbery, two counts of
Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. In
accordance with a negotiated plea agreement, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Bill Hamrick sentenced
Clemons to 30 years, with the first 15 years to be served in prison. As a result of the Armed Robbery charge,
Clemons will not be eligible for parole until he has served the first 10 years of his sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Lara Myers prosecuted the case. Sgt. Shane Spradlin of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office
was the lead investigator.

The charges arose from an incident which occurred on September 3, 2019, when deputies were dispatched to the
Raceway gas station on Old Airport Road in reference to a robbery which had already occurred. Once on scene
deputies made contact with two female clerks who advised that an older male had come into the gas station,
produced a handgun, and demanded the cash from their registers. The male then ordered them to another area in
the Raceway and left the scene. Investigators were able to identify the vehicle that dropped the male off, and were
able to identify the gunman as, Jeffery Fitzgerald Clemons, based on store surveillance video. Investigators were
also able to identify the driver, and on September 6, 2019, the suspect vehicle was stopped while being driven by
the same driver and while Jeffery Clemons was again riding in the passenger seat. Inside the vehicle, officers
located two black face masks and a handgun, which matched the description given by the store clerks. In an
interview with law enforcement, Clemons admitted his involvement. The driver was killed in an unrelated incident
in June 2021.

I commend the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for their quick response to these victims and their great effort to hold
these armed robbers accountable. The victims in this case were traumatized with the threat of being shot while
they were simply trying to make a living. In contrast, these defendants chose to victimize the innocent rather than
get a job. For choosing violence and crime over being a hardworking responsible citizen, it is appropriate that
Defendant Clemons be removed from our community for the next fifteen years.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-09-01

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2021

On August 25, 2021, a jury in the Superior Court of Carroll County found Christopher John Couch, 38, of Temple,
guilty of Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, and Possession of a
Schedule IV Controlled Substance. Following the guilty verdict, Couch pleaded guilty to Possession of a Firearm by
a Convicted Felon. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Couch to 30 years,
with the first 20 years to be served in prison. As a result of Couch’s criminal history, having more than three prior
felony convictions, Couch was sentenced as a repeat offender and will not be eligible for parole on his 20-year
sentence.

Assistant District Attorney Caley McDonald prosecuted the case. Chief Brian Sims, formerly of the Carroll County
Sheriff’s Office, currently the Chief of Police in Mt. Zion, and Sgt. Shane Spradlin, of the Carroll County Sheriff’s
Office, were the lead investigators.

The charges arose out of a November 15, 2019 incident at the Holiday Inn Express in Villa Rica. That morning,
officers with the ACE Unit were searching for a man that had been seen at the Holiday Inn Express. Members of the
ACE Unit went to the Holiday Inn Express and confirmed that the male they were looking for had been at the hotel
and determined that he was associated with a room rented under the last name Couch. Shortly after checkout,
hotel staff let officers into the room. Instead of the man they were looking for, officers found Christopher Couch
and a female in the room. In the room, officers observed drug paraphernalia and a firearm. Officers determined
that Couch had an active warrant for his arrest and obtained a search warrant for the room. The execution of the
search warrant revealed over 244 grams of methamphetamine, oxycodone pills, alprazolam pills, and a large
amount of U.S. currency.

I commend the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and members of the multiagency ACE Unit for their commitment to
holding accountable those who illegally possess and trade in guns and drugs. The DA’s Office will continue to seek
multi-year prison sentences for drug traffickers, like Mr. Couch, who seek to profit from those who suffer from
addiction.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-08-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2021

On August 16, 2021, just prior to proceeding with a jury trial in the Superior Court of Troup County, Jabbari Fisher, a/k/a: “Homixide,” now 20 years old, of LaGrange pleaded guilty to five violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, and one count of possession of firearm during commission of a felony. In accordance with a plea agreement, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Fisher to 30 years in prison followed by 20 years on probation.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne prosecuted the case. Detective Ley Wynne and Gang Investigator Jarrod Anderson, both of the LaGrange Police Department, were the lead investigators.

The charges resulted from two incidents Fisher perpetrated in the City of LaGrange. In the late evening hours of June 5, 2020, as the victim sat in the driver’s seat of his vehicle on Washington Street, Fisher shot him with a 9mm handgun from just outside of the vehicle. The victim sustained two gunshot wounds to his face; a third shot grazed his head. Miraculously, the victim survived. Investigators obtained warrants for Fisher’s arrest on June 12, 2020; the United States Marshals apprehended Fisher in Clayton County on September 29, 2020.

While preparing for trial, ADA Winne and investigators discovered evidence in Fisher’s social media records that implicated him in an attempted armed robbery that occurred on April 10, 2019 on Cox Street. In that case, Fisher and an accomplice, Tavion Harton, a/k/a: “Mayhem,” went to another victim’s home on Cox Street for the purpose of robbing him at gunpoint. Once inside, Harton brandished a revolver and demanded money from the victim. A physical struggle ensued, during which Harton pointed the handgun at the victim and pull the trigger twice. Again, miraculously, both trigger pulls resulted in misfires. Harton was apprehended that night. After pleading guilty in December of 2019, Harton was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison, followed by 20 years on probation. Evidence obtained during both investigations revealed Fisher and Harton were members of the Sex-Money-Murda Bloods criminal street gang and that the commission of all of these offenses were motivated by their participation in the violent gang’s activities.

I once again commend the dedication and work ethic of Dep. Chief ADA Winne and the LaGrange Police Department for holding another violent gang member accountable for acts of violence committed in our community of LaGrange. Defendant Fisher sought to glorify himself by violent acts so much that he adopted the nickname “Homicide.” As a consequence of his choices, he has rightly been removed from our community for decades.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2021-07-08

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRESS RELEASE RE: JUNE 28, 2021 COWETA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT TRIAL WEEK

On Monday, June 28, 2021, the Coweta County Superior Court held a trial week, with Judge Emory Palmer, Judge Travis Sakrison, and Senior Judge William Simmons presiding. At the conclusion of the trial week, the Court had received 60 guilty pleas and had conducted three jury trials, all of which concluded with guilty verdicts. District Attorney Cranford regards this trial week as the most productive trial week since the judicial system shut down due to COVID-19, and he believes all participants in the judicial system should be commended for their efforts in pursuit of justice in every case.

The District Attorney wishes particularly to acknowledge and commend the patience of the many victims who have waited and continue to wait to receive justice, the continued engagement and responsiveness of law enforcement in seeing their cases through to their conclusion, and the members of the DA’s Office who worked countless hours and weekends to prepare these cases for trial.

Noteworthy cases resolved the week of June 28, 2021:

Following a week-long jury trial in Case No. 2019-R-937 and deliberations that lasted until 11 p.m. Friday, July 2, Defendant Danny Long was found guilty of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Criminal Use of a Firearm with an Altered Identification Mark. The evidence revealed that on April 30, 2019, the 17 year old Defendant shot and killed his cousin, Edmond Irvin, who at the time was an off-duty Coweta County Sheriff’s Deputy. Approximately ten minutes before the shooting, Deputy Irvin and Long got into a physical altercation stemming from Deputy Irvin speaking to Long about staying out late, getting in trouble, and disrespecting and cussing at Long’s own mother, who was also Deputy Irvin’s cousin. After this initial physical altercation, Long went to his bedroom and took out a firearm from his dresser and put it in his pocket. Deputy Irvin, who was unarmed and unaware of Long’s firearm, waited several minutes to try to let Long cool down before he went to Long’s bedroom to bring him back his jacket from the ground outside. According to Long, Deputy Irvin was trying to be nice to him when he entered his room. However, Long was still angry about the earlier altercation so he yelled and cursed at Deputy Irvin and shoved him. A scuffle ensued in the bedroom.

Witnesses in the residence testified that they heard Long yell, “I ain’t no punk bitch!” prior to hearing the sound of three gunshots, one of which fatally wounded Deputy Irvin. Immediately after the shooting, Long ran out of the house, but not before threatening to shoot and kill Deputy Irvin’s pregnant fiancée, who screamed at Long as he fled the scene. Once outside the residence, a neighbor heard Defendant exclaim, “I’m going to kill every motherfucker in that house.” During the sentencing hearing, Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian, who represented the State during the trial, admitted evidence of Long’s past threats to kill other people and evidence that Long was engaged the in sale of firearms. Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Long to serve life in prison, followed by 25 years to serve in prison.

Following a jury trial prosecuted by Assistant DA Christine Caldwell in Case No. 2021-R-586, Defendant Kulli Jackson was convicted of Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Knife during the Commission of a Felony. The evidence revealed that, on June 25, 2019, the Defendant wore a mask and pulled a knife on a Dollar General employee. The employee stabbed the Defendant with her own knife in self-defense before the Defendant ran away from the scene. The blood on the victim’s knife was positively matched to the Defendant’s DNA. The State also charged the Defendant with Attempted Armed Robbery but the jury found him not guilty of that charge. Senior Judge Simmons sentenced the Defendant to 25 years, with the first 10 years to be served in prison.

Following a jury trial prosecuted by Assistant DA Magen Bateman in Case No. 2019-R-049, Defendant Jose Garcia was convicted of Identify Fraud for using another person’s identity, without authority, to purchase a vehicle from Nissan of Newnan. Judge Emory Palmer sentenced Garcia to 5 years, with the first two years to be served in prison.

Defendants Duquavias Geddis, Marion Meriwether, and Patdrious Meriwether entered non-negotiated guilty pleas to various violations of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act in Case No. 2019-R-458. Judge Emory Palmer sentenced Geddis and Marion Meriwether each to 20 years to serve the first 5 years in prison, and sentenced Patdrious Meriwether to 30 years with the first 8 years to be served in prison. The evidence in this case, which included multiple cell phone videos, revealed that all three defendants were associated with the Bloods criminal street gang and had orchestrated “beat-ins” in March of 2018 to induct new members, who were juveniles, into the street gang. While none of the juveniles were injured and while they engaged in the “beat-in” consensually, this behavior amounted to an illegal Affray, which when done for the purpose of recruitment into a criminal street gang violates Georgia’s gang statute. The juvenile’s cases were handled in Juvenile Court and the District Attorney hopes that this experience has served to lead them down a different path in life, one that does not result in incarceration or death at the hands of gang members.

One other codefendant and fellow gang member, Jalen Anderson, was also charged in this case. He was sentenced to 30 years to serve the first 12 years in prison on November 16, 2020. In addition to Anderson’s participation in these “beat-ins,” investigators found in his cell phone a document containing gang rules and codes, as well as a list of the highest ranking local members of the gang, two of whom are currently serving double-digit prison sentences for gang and/or violent crimes committed in Coweta County prior to March 2018.

2021-03-30

While the recent tornado damage to our community has brought the best out of many of us as we support and help one another, unfortunately there are those who see this an opportunity to prey upon the vulnerable. The following information will help prevent you and loved ones from falling victim to any home repair fraud or insurance fraud, and will give guidance on what to do for those who may have already been defrauded in some manner.

FRAUD PREVENTION TIPS

CONTACT INFORMATION

If you think that you may have been the victim of home repair fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (toll-free in Georgia, outside of the metro Atlanta calling area). To report any suspected insurance fraud, you may either call the Georgia Office of Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire Criminal Investigations Division at 1-800-656-2298 or (404) 656-2070 or make the report online at oci.georgia.gov/report-suspected-fraud

2021-02-15

GEORGIA SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS CONVICTIONS OF KELVIN HURSTON AND DEXTREION SHEALEY FOR THEIR ROLES IN 2016 GANG-MOTIVATED MURDER ON NEWNAN STREET

On February 15, 2021, the Supreme Court of Georgia, in a unanimous opinion, affirmed the convictions and sentence of Kelvin Hurston, now 20 years old, of LaGrange. This ruling comes after the Supreme Court of Georgia, on June 1, 2020, also unanimously, affirmed the convictions and sentence of Dextreion Shealey, now 23 years old, of West Point.

On April 23, 2018, after a six-day trial, a Troup County jury found Hurston guilty of one count of felony murder, two violations of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of possession of firearm during commission of a felony. The jury found Shealey guilty of one count of felony murder, one count of a violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, and one count of aggravated assault.

Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer, who presided over the trial, sentenced Hurston to serve life, with the possibility of parole, followed by 70 years in prison, and sentenced Shealey to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole. Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne tried the case to the jury and handled both appeals.
The convictions resulted from the December 17, 2016, killing of Daven Tucker on Newnan Street, and a drive-by shooting at the LaGrange High School parking lot.

The Supreme Court of Georgia’s affirmation of these convictions should be viewed by the people of LaGrange as an affirmation of the commitment of the LaGrange Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office to stop gang violence in our community. As I stated to the press following these jury trial convictions, this case included 911 calls made by law-abiding citizens as they lay on the floor of their homes avoiding bullets flying through their neighborhood. No member of our community should have to experience that. The State of Georgia’s Street Gang Act is meant to hold violent gang members accountable and that is exactly how it was used in this case. I am thankful that LaGrange PD Detective Brian Brown and Deputy Chief ADA Jack Winne were able to achieve justice for the victim’s family and all of the people of LaGrange with this conviction.

2021-01-15

The following article was written by District Attorney Herb Cranford and published in the January/February 2021 issue of Newnan-Coweta Magazine.

Addressing race relations in a word limited column is a difficult task, and I know what I say here does not adequately address the depth and complexity of this topic. Newnan-Coweta magazine asked me to share my perspective, and I have chosen to use my limited space to explain how we conduct business at the District Attorney’s Office to ensure that we are positively contributing to our community rather than causing racial injustice. At the outset, I acknowledge I have not walked in the shoes of minority members of our community, and I understand that many have experienced racism. I write here as the District Attorney of the Coweta Judicial Circuit; the local elected official most responsible for seeking justice for violations of the laws of the State of Georgia. What I explain below is meant to help the public understand the character of our office.

It is the sacred duty of the District Attorney to enforce the law equally for all members of our community. Because some crimes are motivated by prejudice, which deserve an increased level of punishment in my view, I supported passage of Georgia’s new Hates Crimes Bill. To prevent disparities based on race in our cases, we review each case on its merits to determine what justice is for the specific case, regardless of any victim or defendant’s race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, wealth, etc. We also abide by general guidelines meant to ensure that the resolutions we pursue for each case are consistent when considering the nature of the crime committed, the prior record of the accused, and the strength of the evidence we have to prove the crime.

In order to get as close as humanly possible to perfect justice, we make conscientious effort to treat every victim and defendant as individuals with inherent dignity. We honor the constitutional rights of the accused and we only pursue cases where we believe we can prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt. To do otherwise in my view is to risk a wrongful conviction. We have an open case file policy, which means we make available to the defendant the entire contents of our case file, except for legally privileged material. We do this to ensure that the adversarial process works as intended to achieve a just and fair outcome, and to ensure transparency in the process.

In order to treat all parties as human beings and in order to make decisions based on the facts and the law, our office endeavors to receive all of the information relevant to the case and the parties involved. We meet with victims and their families to try to understand what they have experienced and what we can do to make them safe and whole. We communicate with law enforcement about their thoughts on how to resolve the case appropriately. We try to understand why the accused did what they did, and to what extent they are a danger to do it again. I, and all of the prosecutors in our office, will take any meeting with any member of the public, including family and friends of the accused, who want to share their thoughts about how any particular case should be resolved.

In addition to all of these measures, which are meant to ensure that justice is done without regard to irrelevant factors such as race, as an office we emphasize transparency with the public. Part of our mission as an office is “to maintain the trust of the people we serve.” This means every member of our community.

Engaging with the public and being as transparent as possible are necessary to build trust in our criminal justice system, and public trust is necessary for the functioning of the criminal justice system. Victims must have such trust in order to call for help; witnesses must have such trust to being willing and unafraid to tell the truth; and defendants must have such trust to be able to take responsibility for their crimes and choose a different path in life.
From speaking with members of our community, I know that some have experienced racism in some form and are suspicious that the criminal justice system and its participants are prejudiced. To dispel the wrong beliefs some may have about the Coweta Circuit DA’s Office, I try to speak to the public as much as I can and any time I am invited to do so. I understand I must be proactive in helping the community understand my heart and motivations. If we continue to operate this way, I am confident that the public will increasingly trust that justice for all, not prejudice, motivates the District Attorney’s Office of the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

Herb Cranford
District Attorney
Coweta Judicial Circuit