Press Releases Result on Years

2024-02-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2024

After a weeklong trial, a Coweta County jury found Leslie Gene Patterson, 60, guilty of two counts of Child Molestation and one count of Aggravated Sexual Battery involving two minor girls. Following the verdict, Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced him to Life without parole in light of his multiple prior felony convictions. Assistant District Attorney Scott Teague prosecuted the case and Coweta County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Shawna Wade led the investigation. The evidence presented at trial revealed the following:

Patterson lived in Sweetbriar Mobile Home Park and hosted parties where he supplied alcohol and drugs for a teenage family member and his high school age friends, which included teenage girls under the age of 18. The State called some of these females as witnesses in the trial to testify about these parties and Patterson’s behavior, which included Patterson making sexual comments and touching the girls inappropriately.

This information including Patterson’s behavior at the parties was brought to the attention of authorities when an 11-year-old female out cried in 2020 that Patterson had molested in Coweta County. This incident was the basis of one of the counts of Child Molestation.

After the 11-year-old reported being molested, a second victim came forward and reported that Patterson had sexually assaulted her in 2015 at one of his parties when she was 15 years old. She testified that she and her boyfriend fell asleep at Patterson’s trailer and she woke up to Patterson sexually assaulting her. This incident was the basis for the charge of Aggravated Sexual Battery, which carries a maximum possible sentence of Life without parole, and for the second charge of Child Molestation.

Patterson has been arrested over 60 times in his life and has been convicted of numerous felonies. It is tragic that he was living freely in our community to be able to sexually assault at least two minor females. I am thankful that these victims and our entire community can rest a little easier knowing that he will never live freely among us again.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2024-02-18

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2024

On February 15, 2024, a Troup County Jury found Jerome Huzzie, 42, of LaGrange, Georgia, guilty of Rape, Aggravated Child Molestation, and Child Molestation. Superior Court Judge Markette Baker presided over the trial and scheduled sentencing for March 1, 2024 at 1:30 p.m. According to Georgia law, the mandatory minimum sentence for Rape and Aggravated Child Molestation, respectively, is 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by life on probation and registration as a sex offender.

Assistant District Attorney Julia Slater prosecuted the case and former LaGrange Police Department Detective Patrick Tunnell led the investigation. The evidence presented to the jury showed the following:

On May 13, 2021, the victim of these crimes told a friend at school that she had been raped by Jerome Huzzie. This friend took the victim to the counselor at Long Cane Middle School and literally stood by her as she told about the things Jerome Huzzie had done. Counselor Ariel Warner immediately reported the disclosure to LaGrange Police Department and the Department of Family and Children Services. Det. Tunnell was assigned to the case and took the victim to the Troup County Children’s Advocacy Center for a forensic interview and sexual assault medical examination.

The forensic interview, conducted by John Harrell, revealed that the victim had been sexually abused by Mr. Huzzie for approximately seven years, since she was six or seven years old. The abuse included forcible rape and oral sodomy. The medical examination, performed by sexual assault nurse examiner Heather Blane, revealed injuries consistent with the victim’s disclosures about being raped. Further investigation revealed that during the timeframe of the abuse, the victim exhibited symptoms common to victims of sexual abuse, including suicidal thoughts, nightmares, and self-harm. Prior to telling her friend and the school counselor, the victim told her mother about the molestation but her mother said the defendant would never do something like that and did not seek the assistance of law enforcement.

This case serves as an example of how multiple agencies in our community work together to protect children and hold their abusers accountable. The Troup County School System, LaGrange Police Department, the Department of Family and Children Services, and the Troup County Children’s Advocacy Center all did their part to protect this child and find the truth so that this jury could hold this defendant accountable. The two heroes of this story are the victim, who had the courage to tell the truth about what happened to her, and her friend, whose loyalty and support helped this victim come forward to seek justice.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2024-02-05

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2024

On January 25, 2024, a Carroll County jury convicted Kenneth Lee Phillips, 43, of Carrollton, of Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Assault – Family Violence, and Battery – Family Violence for strangling and beating a woman who was then his girlfriend. Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon sentenced Phillips to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole. The Defendant was sentenced without parole because of his substantial criminal history, which includes over 30 arrests since 1998 and 5 prior felony convictions.

Assistant District Attorneys Matthew Moore and Caley McDonald and DA Investigator Shannon Bramblett prosecuted the case. Sgt. Christopher with the Carrollton Police Department led the investigation, which revealed the following:

On March 5, 2021, Carrollton Police Department officers responded to Bankhead Beverage on Bankhead Highway in Carrollton in response to a call about a man beating a woman. By the time officers arrived, the Defendant had fled the scene, but officers met with the victim, who had injuries and dried blood on her arms. Officers obtained store surveillance video that showed the Defendant putting the victim in a chokehold, beating her, and body slamming her to the pavement.

That same day, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Deputies located the Defendant in Carroll County and notified Carrollton Police Department. When speaking to law enforcement, the Defendant denied any wrongdoing and instead blamed the victim. Based on the evidence gathered at the scene, Carrollton Police Department arrested the Defendant.

At trial, the State presented the surveillance video as well as evidence of prior instances of abuse committed by the Defendant on the same victim. The Defendant insisted on representing himself during the trial, which was his right. Consequently, the Defendant had a right to cross-examine the victim personally. As difficult as it was to face her abuser and be questioned by him, the victim courageously took the stand and told the truth.

With its verdict, this juror has made clear that the people of Carroll County will not tolerate domestic violence. For his repeated violent abuse of this victim, his refusal to take responsibility for it, and his life of criminal behavior, it is just that this Defendant serve the next 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-12-11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 11, 2023

On November 17, 2023, a Troup County Jury found Camron Chase Downing, 26, of Carrollton, Georgia, guilty of Malice Murder and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony. The Honorable Judge Matthew Simmons presided over the trial and sentenced Downing to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus a consecutive five years to serve in prison. Assistant District Attorney Julia Slater prosecuted the case. Detective Darrell Prichard of the LaGrange Police Department (LPD) led the investigation. The evidence presented to the jury showed the following:

The LPD investigation did not determine a motive for the shooting nor any connection between Downing and Leonard or Leonard’s girlfriend. When interviewed, Downing claimed he was lost in LaGrange, asked Leonard for directions, which turned into an argument, and he thought Leonard was going to shoot him first. Leonard did not have a weapon and his girlfriend did not hear him speaking to anyone else at the time of the shooting.

The investigation that led to Downing as the murderer began with witnesses on Second Avenue observing a red or maroon SUV at the time of the murder. Investigators carefully reviewed security videos from a nearby school and traffic cameras until they located a vehicle that matched the description- a red Nissan Pathfinder registered to Camron Downing’s mother. In one of the videos, investigators obtained an image of the driver of the vehicle, who appeared to be Camron Downing.

Upon looking into Downing’s prior interactions with law enforcement, investigators learned of three encounters in the past year during which Downing was connected to either a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, a holster for a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, or both. This was significant because investigators did not find any shell casings at the crime scene, which suggested the shooter may have used a revolver. After conducting the autopsy, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) determined that the bullets, which hit the victim, were shot from a .357 or .38 caliber firearm.

On January 5, 2021, LPD investigators interviewed Downing. He initially lied about possessing the Pathfinder and about being in LaGrange on the day of the murder. However, after being confronted the evidence that proved otherwise, he admitted the shooting and claimed self-defense. He told investigators where to find the Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver he used to kill Leonard and the GBI ultimately
confirmed that Downing’s revolver fired the bullets that killed Leonard.

The LaGrange Police Department deserves high praise for their tireless investigation into this senseless
crime. For taking Keenen Leonard from his family and loved ones without any apparent reason, it is just
that Downing never be released from prison.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-12-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2023

On December 6, 2023, Fary Romero, 24, pleaded guilty to Statutory Rape, Child Molestation, and thirteen counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children for sexually abusing a 14 year old female. Carroll County Judge Michael Hubbard accepted the plea agreement negotiated by the State and sentenced Romero to 25 years in prison followed by 15 years on probation.

Assistant District Attorney Wade Mason and DA Investigator Katia Detwiler prosecuted the case. Sgt. Podaras with the Carrollton Police Department led the investigation, which revealed the following:

In March 2022, Carrollton Police Department officers responded to the Rodeway Inn on Centennial Drive in Carrollton in response a caller concerned about the welfare of two teenage girls seen going into a motel room with adult males. When officers went to the hotel room in question, they found the Defendant, another adult male, a 17-year-old female, and a 14-year-old victim in the room, which smelled of burnt marijuana. Investigators found evidence that the Defendant had engaged in sex acts in the motel room with the 14-year-old and that the Defendant video recorded the acts on his cell phone.

When interviewed, the Defendant told officers that he knew that the victim was young prior to engaging in the sex acts with her. On the Defendant’s cell phone, investigators found more videos and images of child pornography. Additionally, investigators learned that the Defendant administered a chatroom where participants traded child pornography. It was also determined that the Defendant is an illegal alien such that he is expected to be deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when he completes his prison sentence. There was no evidence the other adult male committed any felony.

This case serves as another example of the coordination between multiple organizations in our community to protect our children and bring their abusers to justice. In addition to the Carrollton Police Department, this case involved the University of West Georgia Police Department, the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center, and the Department of Family and Children Services. Above all, the District Attorney’s Office commends the vigilance and compassion of the concerned citizen who trusted his instincts and called law enforcement out of his concern for these two teenage girls he saw outside the hotel.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-12-05

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2023

On December 4 and 5, 2023, in the Superior Court of Coweta County, Justin Cayne Ramsey, a/k/a: “ATL,” now 24 years old, of Locust Grove, William Autrey Tyree, a/k/a: “Chevy,” now 35, of Newnan, Kyle Ray Conley, a/k/a: “Chi Town,” now 40, of Augusta, Aubrie Leigh Brown, a/k/a: “Bri 7,” now 29, of Austell, and Spencer Todd Wix, now 31, of Villa Rica, were sentenced in accordance with negotiated plea agreements after pleading guilty to various charges stemming from the February 11, 2020 home invasion on Bethlehem Church Road that resulted in the killing of Haley Adams, who was 14.

Ramsey pleaded guilty to fifteen charges, including Felony Murder, violations of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, and Home Invasion in the First Degree, among other charges, and was sentenced to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole. As a result, under Georgia law, Ramsey will be required to serve at least 30 years in prison, prior to being eligible for consideration for release on parole. Tyree pleaded guilty to violating the Street Gang Act, Aggravated Assault, and False Imprisonment, among other charges, and was sentenced to 60 years with the first 35 years to be served in prison without parole. Brown pleaded guilty to violating the Street Gang Act, Voluntary Manslaughter, and Home Invasion in the First Degree, among other charges, and was sentenced to serve 50 years with the first 30 years to be served in prison. Conley pleaded guilty to violating the Street Gang Act, Voluntary Manslaughter, and Home Invasion in the First Degree, among other charges, and was sentenced to serve 40 years with the first 25 years to be served in prison. Wix pleaded guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter and Home Invasion in the First Degree, among other charges, and was sentenced to serve 40 years with the first 25 years to be served in prison.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne, and D.A. Investigator Ryan Foles prosecuted the case. The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation.

In short, the evidence at trial would have shown the following: Around 9:00 pm, on February 11, 2020, on the directive of Tyree, who at the time was a high-ranking member of the Ghostface Gangsters criminal street gang, Ramsey, Conley, Brown, and Wix went to a residence on Bethlehem Church Road to commit an armed home invasion, targeting the man who lived there, against whom Tyree had a personal vendetta. Ramsey, Conley, and Brown were members of the gang; Wix, Brown’s brother, was not a gang member but knowingly associated with members of the gang. Tyree ordered the other four to scare the man and rough him up, and told them they could steal firearms that Tyree knew to be in the residence. Ramsey was armed with an AK-47-style rifle, Conley and Wix were armed with handguns, and Brown carried bags into the residence for the purpose of carrying out stolen guns.

After tormenting Haley’s mother at gunpoint, once the four perpetrators realized the man was not present, they abandoned the robbery plan and began to flee. As they ran outside, Haley, who had been hiding in her room during the invasion, retrieved a BB pistol and chased after the intruders. As she was on the front porch with the BB gun in hand, Ramsey opened fire at her, striking her once in the back, a wound to which she ultimately succumbed later that night.

The Ghostface Gangsters criminal street gang, which derives its name from the fact that it is predominately comprised of white persons, originated from the Cobb County Jail in the early 2000s, grew as a prison gang from there, and has evolved into a statewide street gang, whose primary activities include drug trafficking and violent crimes in furtherance of the gang’s interests. Like many other criminal street gangs, the Ghostface Gangsters have formalized structure, rules, and doctrine. Over the last several years, Ghostface Gangsters have been successfully prosecuted under the Street Gang Act in jurisdictions throughout Georgia. The evidence would have shown that Tyree used his status as a high-ranking Ghostface Gangster to procure violent offenders to carry out his violent plan. Motivated by their desire to participate in the gang’s criminal endeavors and to meet the expectations placed upon members by the gang Ramsey, Conley, and Brown willingly agreed to participate in the armed home invasion. Wix participated due to his association with Brown and Ramsey.

Conley and Wix entered guilty pleas in the April of 2022. Tyree entered his guilty plea in August of 2023. Brown and Ramsey pleaded guilty in late November. Each defendant’s sentencing recommendation was based upon his and her degrees of culpability and cooperation with the State relative to the other defendants.

This case shows the harm that all street gangs do to our community and the devastation they cause to victims and their families. The view of the District Attorney’s Office is that street gang members who commit gang crimes should be sent to prison. And if those crimes are violent, they should be sent to prison for decades. While our criminal justice system obviously cannot compensate for the loss of Haley Adams, the District Attorney’s Office is satisfied that justice was done in this case and that our community is safer as a result of these sentences.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-11-28

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2023

On November 27, 2023, Jerric Gilbert pled guilty to two counts of Child Molestation, Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, and Violation of Oath by Public Officer. Rather than proceed to trial on the November 27 trial date, Gilbert chose to enter a non-negotiated guilty plea in front of Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower, who sentenced Gilbert to 60 years in prison followed by another 15 years on probation.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd and DA Investigator Becky Byrd prosecuted the case. Special Agent (SA) Devin Evans of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) led the investigation. The evidence gathered in the investigation revealed the following:

On April 21, 2022, a 7-year-old student at a city elementary school disclosed to one of her teachers that Carrollton Police Department Officer Gilbert, the school’s resource officer, made her sister do something “nasty.” The child explained that she and her sister were no longer allowed to go to Gilbert’s residence, where they had previously gone to get their hair done. The teacher informed the school principal who immediately contacted the Carrollton Police Department and the parents of the children. Capt. Shannon Cantrell responded to the school and observed the school’s principal interview the 11-year-old victim.

The victim advised that she and her sister were at Gilbert’s residence when Gilbert took her into the basement to look at shoes. The victim stated that when she was alone with Gilbert in the basement, he turned off the lights, pulled down his pants, and placed her hands on his genitals. The victim said Gilbert made her wash her hands and go back upstairs. Following this interview, Gilbert was immediately placed on administrative leave and was terminated from the Carrollton Police Department the following day.

Because Gilbert had been an employee of Carrollton Police Department, the department requested that the GBI conduct an investigation into the allegations. S.A. Evans led the investigation and scheduled a forensic interview for the victim at the Carroll County Advocacy Center. During that forensic interview, the victim further disclosed that Gilbert moved her hands on his genitals in a tugging motion and that he touched her genitals over her clothes. The GBI then interviewed Gilbert during which he admitted to bringing the victim to the basement, placing her hands on his exposed penis, and doing so for his sexual gratification. Gilbert was arrested and charged with child molestation and violation of oath of office.

The District Attorney’s Office is grateful to the numerous members of the Carrollton Police Department who attended the plea to stand with the victim, to stand with the State, and to stand with the community against their former coworker. The District Attorney’s Office will do everything in its lawful power to protect child victims from sexual predators, regardless of their background.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-11-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2023

On November 9, 2023, Melvin Cordero Barkley pled guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter, Aggravated Assault, and two counts of Possession of a Knife During the Commission of a Felony in relation to the stabbing death of Tyler Waters in May 2018. Pursuant to a plea agreement negotiated by the State, Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger presided over the plea and sentenced the defendant to 30 years in prison without the possibility for parole followed by 20 years on probation. The State was able to negotiate a sentence without parole eligibility because the Defendant has multiple prior felony convictions. The case was specially set to begin trial on Monday, November 13, 2023.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd and DA Investigator Becky Byrd prosecuted the case. Lt. Dan Keever of the Carrollton Police Department led the investigation. The evidence gathered in the investigation revealed the following:

On May 3, 2018, the events that led to the death of the victim, Tyler Waters, began when he and the Defendant got into an argument during a telephone call. Waters was upset that Barkley and Barkley’s fiancé were living with Water’s great-aunt and were not paying her rent. During the argument, Barkley invited Waters to come to the residence so they could discuss it. It is not clear if Barkley and Waters intended to talk or fight, but when Waters arrived at the residence, the two got into a physical fight in front of the residence. Waters essentially won the fight then got back into his vehicle and drove away. Barkley then got into his own vehicle with a knife and pursued Waters.

When Barkley caught up to Waters vehicle, Barkley struck the back of Waters vehicle. Waters stopped his car, exited, and approached Barkley’s vehicle. The two then got into another physical fight during which Barkley stabbed Waters in the throat, severing his carotid artery and cutting his jugular vein. Waters was able to get back into his vehicle but died there. Law enforcement received several calls about the initial altercation and in responding to the scene found Waters unresponsive inside his vehicle in the road. Efforts to revive Waters were unsuccessful.

Barkley fled the scene before law enforcement arrived. He was not located until the following day, May 4, 2018. By the time Barkley was located, he had left his vehicle in Bremen, disposed of the knife, and washed the clothes he was wearing when he killed Waters. Barkley gave several recorded interviews to law enforcement in which he provided several evolving accounts of what occurred, including claiming he stabbed Waters in self-defense.

While the District Attorney’s Office believes the evidence supports the charge of Murder, the Office reached this negotiated resolution in contemplation of the possibility that a jury may not convict the Defendant of Murder. Resolving this case with 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole protects our community for decades from this Defendant and holds him accountable for taking the life of Mr. Waters without justification.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-11-13

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2023

On November 9, 2023, after a 4 day trial, a Carroll County jury convicted Nathaniel Allen Bernhardt, 28, of Carrollton, of felony acts of domestic violence against his girlfriend with whom he resided at the time of the attack. He was convicted of Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, Aggravated Assault by Strangulation, False Imprisonment, Possession of More than an Ounce of Marijuana, and Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. Superior Court Judge John Simpson presided over the trial and will be scheduling sentencing. The mandatory minimum sentence for Kidnapping with Bodily Injury is Life in prison with the possibility of parole.

This case was investigated by Inv. Seth Denney of the Carrollton Police Department with the assistance of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Nathan Stewart with the assistance of District Attorney Investigator Shannon Bramblett and Victim Advocate Abigail Benefield. The evidence introduced at trial showed the following:

Between the night of March 29, 2023 and the morning of March 30, 2023, the Defendant spent approximately 6 hours hitting, slapping, punching, and strangling his girlfriend. When she originally reported the incident, the victim told law enforcement that she had blacked out between 3 and 7 times from strangulation, and several times she woke up to find Bernhardt still on top of her, where he proceeded to strangle her to unconsciousness again. She also told the police that at one point she had run out of the front door of their apartment to try and get away, but that Bernhardt had chased her down and made her go back inside and “do it all over again.” She said that once inside the residence, Bernhardt would grab her by her hair and sling her around the apartment, moving her from room to room and throwing her back and forth between the bed and the floor. Law enforcement documented visible injuries across her body including a bruised and swollen eye, red marks around her neck resembling a hand print, and bruising to her arms. Wellstar Hospital documented “a large bruise with swelling” to the left eye and “multiple abrasions and bruising . . . around the neck.” Hospital records also note that the victim reiterated that her boyfriend assaulted her and strangled her, and that he had abused her before “but never to this extent.”

The Defendant was arrested on March 30, 2023 and indicted on May 9, 2023. While the victim was initially cooperative with the law enforcement investigation and prosecution of the Defendant, by the time the case went to trial, she did not want the Defendant prosecuted. To prove the truth of what happened to this victim, the State introduced into evidence pictures of the victim’s injuries, audio recordings of her statements to law enforcement, and hospital records documenting her injuries and statements to medical personnel.

The Carroll County jury should be commended for its determination to find the truth in this case and to hold the Defendant accountable. In doing so, they have not only protected this victim from further abuse, but they have protected other women whom this Defendant might target over the next 30 years, while he instead will be serving a life sentence. This case demonstrates the dedication of our law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office to bring domestic abusers to justice and to protect their victims and our community from future abuse.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-11-03

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2023

On October 30, 2023, William Eric Vinson, 42, of Roopville, pleaded guilty in Carroll County Superior Court to three counts of Aggravated Child Molestation, two counts of Statutory Rape, two counts of Child Molestation, one count of Aggravated Sexual Battery, and one count of Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. Pursuant to a negotiated guilty plea, Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Vinson to serve life in prison with the possibility of parole followed by a consecutive 19 years in prison and one year of probation, as required by the Georgia’s requirement that sex crime sentences include at least one year of probation. This sentence means Vinson is not guaranteed parole and will serve at least 30 years in prison before he becomes eligible for consideration for parole.

Assistant District Attorney Maggie Meetze and District Attorney’s Office Investigator Katia Detwiler prosecuted the case with the assistance of Victim Witness Advocate Katelynn Culbreath. Carroll County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Investigator DeWayne Harmon led the investigation.

This case highlights a few significant criminal justice policies in the State of Georgia, which have received scrutiny over the years: (1) the creation of mandatory minimum sentences without the possibility of parole for aggravated sex crimes like Rape, Aggravated Child Molestation, and Aggravated Sexual Battery, (2) the State’s ability to prosecute juveniles in extreme cases as adults for aggravated sex crimes, and (3) the importance of long probationary periods and sex offender registration requirements for offenders convicted of aggravated sex crimes. This case highlights these issues because Vinson was previously convicted of Rape and Aggravated Assault in Carroll County Superior Court Case 94-CR-486, when Vinson was 13 years old. In that case, he was sentenced to 30 years, including prison time, and he remained under probation supervision and sex offender registration requirements when he committed these crimes.

In the 1994 case, the 30 year old victim reported that Vinson knocked on her door, pointed a shotgun at her head, and then raped her in her house. On October 19, 1994, Vinson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison followed by 15 years on probation. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, he was released on March 27, 2007, which means he served almost 13 years of his 15 year sentence. He was subsequently convicted of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon on March 26, 2012, and sentenced to serve three years in prison, for which he was released on September 16, 2013.

In this case, on February 13, 2022, the 12 year old child victim reported to her middle school teacher that William Eric Vinson had sex with her at a residence in Carroll County. CCSO, who investigated the 1994 Rape, also led this investigation. On February 14, 2022, investigators went to the address for which Vinson had registered as a sex offender and could not locate him. The victim was forensically interviewed on February 16, 2022, at the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center and disclosed that Vinson first approached her in April of 2021 when she was 11 years old and made sexually suggestive comments about her body. Vinson purchased items for this victim, which is commonly referred to as “grooming” behavior, and exchanged sexually explicit text messages with the victim, which were collected by investigators. Ultimately, the investigation revealed that Vinson sexually abused the victim for a multiple month period in 2021 and threatened to kill himself if the victim ever told anyone.

During the investigation, CCSO investigators determined that Vinson left Carroll County after the victim disclosed Vinson’s sexual abuse and was no longer living at the address where he had registered as a sex offender. Because Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry laws require offenders to update their address within 72 hours of moving, investigators were able to obtain an arrest warrant for violating the Sex Offender Registry laws on March 9, 2022, in addition to obtaining arrest warrants for the sexual abuse of the victim on February 23, 2022. Had the sexual abuse investigation developed more slowly, Georgia’s Sex Offender Registry laws allowed law enforcement to take action to find and arrest Vinson.

While the State’s ability to prosecute juveniles as adults has come under scrutiny, this case shows that the State, through the Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, was justified in prosecuting Vinson as an adult in 1994 and in obtaining a sentence of 15 years in prison, even though he was 13 years old. For reasons that may be beyond normal human understanding, he is clearly a sexual predator and has been since he was a teenager. Vinson’s cases show that the only way to truly protect victims from serious sexual predators, like Vinson, is to send the offenders to prison. The sentence of life with the possibility of parole followed by 19 years in prison in this case reflects the DA’s Office’s intention to incarcerate Vinson for as long as possible without requiring this child victim to experience the re-traumatization of testifying in a jury trial.

It is also worth noting that when Vinson committed this 2022 crime, he was still under probation supervision from the 1994 case and Georgia law’s sex offender registration requirements. While the registration requirements and probation conditions obviously did not prevent Vinson from committing these crimes, this case shows that long probationary periods and sex offender registration are extremely important to provide our communities with some protection from the most dangerous sex offenders who are released from prison.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-10-30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2023

On October 30, 2023, Richard Sigman, 49, of Carrollton, pleaded guilty in Carroll County Superior Court to Malice Murder, three counts of Aggravated Assault, and three counts of Possession of Firearm during Commission of a Felony. Pursuant to a negotiated plea, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower sentenced Sigman to serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole, followed by fifty-five years to serve in prison consecutively. According to Georgia law, a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole requires the defendant to serve at least thirty years in prison before becoming eligible for parole consideration. Sigman, who was 47 years old at the time of the murder, will not be eligible for consideration for parole until he is 77 years old.

The case was prosecuted by District Attorney Herb Cranford, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger, Assistant District Attorney Caley McDonald, and DA Investigator Katia Detwiler. Sergeant Ian Wright of the Carrollton Police Department led the investigation. The District Attorney agreed to this plea, offered to the District Attorney’s Office by Sigman and his attorney, after considering the perspectives of the victims, their families, and Sgt. Wright. The District Attorney believes that agreeing to this sentence recommendation accomplished the objectives of obtaining a substantial prison sentence to protect our community and securing a conviction for the victims and their families without putting them through a traumatizing trial and yearslong appeal process.

After discussing this plea offer and sentence, the parents and sister of the murder victim, and the two living victims and their parents, all advised the District Attorney to accept this plea offer rather than proceed to trial on the scheduled trial date of November 27, 2023. While it is the wish of all of the victims and their families that Sigman never be released from prison, they also value the fact this plea avoids the re-traumatization of a jury trial and provides them some closure regarding this senseless crime. The families and the District Attorney will provide the parole board letters opposing Sigman’s parole consideration in 2052.

The investigation of this crime revealed the following: On July 30, 2022, Sigman chose to get severely intoxicated in downtown Carrollton while in the possession of a handgun. For reasons that are not clear from the evidence, shortly after midnight, Sigman stumbled into the lower level of the courthouse parking deck, drew his firearm, and walked up to the parked vehicle occupied by the three female victims, all of whom were college students. Sigman approached the passenger side of the vehicle and banged on the window while brandishing his handgun. The victims were naturally terrified and began to back out of the parking space to escape from Sigman. As they reversed out of the parking space, Sigman fired three rounds, striking the front seat passenger in the head and killing her.

Officers quickly responded to the parking deck and located Sigman on the ground of the parking lot next to his gun. At the scene Sigman claimed that someone shot at him and that he returned fire in self-defense. Parking deck security footage captured these events and clearly show that Sigman was never in any danger. His actions were legally unjustified, senseless, and incomprehensible.

Investigators were able to recreate much of Sigman’s evening that night using various security videos and witness interviews. Sigman had no prior connection with any of the victims in this case and had not encountered them that night before approaching and shooting into their vehicle. The only evidence that sheds any light on Sigman’s thinking is that, prior to the murder, he had an encounter with a citizen at a downtown bar and threatened to shoot the citizen. Security personnel for the establishment noticed that Sigman was armed and asked him to leave, which Sigman did.

Every murder case that comes through the District Attorney’s Office is a tragedy, but this case is particularly devastating because it occurred so randomly and inexplicably. These college students had done nothing even to draw the attention of this defendant and yet his violent actions took a life and forever changed two other lives. The District Attorney’s Office hopes this resolution provides these victims and their families a measure of justice.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-10-27

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2023

On October 25, 2023, a Carroll County jury returned a verdict of guilty against Patrick O’Neil Gentry, 37, for Criminal Attempt to Commit Malice Murder, Aggravated Battery, and Obstruction of an Officer. Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower presided over the trial and sentenced the defendant to 55 years in prison. Because Gentry has seven prior felony convictions, his 55 year prison sentence must be served without the possibility of parole.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd and DA Investigator Becky Byrd prosecuted the case. Cpl. Jennifer Garmon of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation.

The evidence presented at trial showed that on January 12, 2020, jailer Harlee Rood searched the jail cell of Patrick Gentry and his cellmate, looking for blankets and laundry bags being horded by inmates. Gentry’s cell was located on the 2nd floor of the jail pod, which consists of a two story room, two floors of cells, and staircase and balcony with railing providing access to the 2nd floor of cells. Gentry was being held in Carroll County Jail for offenses included Terroristic Threats, Obstruction of an Officer, and Giving False Information to an Officer.

When Jailer Rood confiscated a laundry bag in Gentry’s cell, Gentry snatched the laundry bag from her, grabbed her by the hair and clothes, dragged her out of the cell, and threw her under the railing off the 2nd floor balcony. Gentry then ran for the stairs, seemingly to get to the ground floor to continue his assault on Jailer Rood. However, Gentry’s cellmate chased him down and grappled with him at the top of the stairs until other officers arrived to take Gentry into custody and provide aid to Jailer Rood. At Grady Hospital Jailer Rood was diagnosed with a compression fracture of one of her vertebrae.

Cpl. Garmon began the investigation immediately, and retrieved surveillance video which captured the incident, except for what occurred inside Gentry’s cell. The video shows Gentry drag Jailer Rood out of the cell and throw her under the rail off the balcony. Jailer Rood is seen falling into the concrete shower which sits directly below the 2nd floor balcony. The video also shows Gentry’s cellmate chase him down and stop him at the top of the stairs until officers arrive.

Every member of law enforcement in our community goes to work every day knowing that they are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve our community. It is a debt we cannot repay. However, when a criminal seeks to harm a law enforcement officer, the District Attorney’s Office will do its part to see that criminals like Patrick Gentry receive substantial prison sentences, like 55 years without parole.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-09-20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2023

On September 13, 2023, a Carroll County jury returned a verdict of guilty against Chauncey Jammal Barnhart, 33, of Douglasville, Georgia, for four counts of Armed Robbery, three counts of Burglary in the First Degree, and one count of Simple Assault. Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger presided over the trial and sentenced the defendant to 10 years in prison without parole followed by 10 years on probation.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd and DA Investigator Becky Byrd prosecuted the case, and Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Ametrice Jackson was the lead investigator.

The evidence presented at trial showed that on October 20, 2021, Chauncey Barnhart drove Chase Glass, Kaitlyn Arnold, an indicted codefendant who has yet to be arrested, and another unidentified female to the Budget Inn on Colombia Drive. The group was going to the Budget Inn to punish the victim for disrespecting Kaitlyn Arnold, who had identified the victim for the group. Once at the Budget Inn, members of the group entered the victim’s hotel room without authority, beat the victim, then robbed the victim and another person in the room at gunpoint.

The investigation began on October 20, 2021, following a 911 call and law enforcement’s arrival at the Budget Inn. During the course of the investigation, Inv. Jackson was able to identify Glass, Barnhart, and Arnold as the parties involved in the attack on the victims. Inv. Jackson secured warrants for the arrest of the involved parties and conducted interviews with them. During the course of the investigation, Glass would accept responsibility for his actions during the incident and would admit to beating the victim and stealing numerous items from him. Arnold would likewise admit to her involvement in the case and provided details of the actions of the group both before, during and after the incident.

In January 2022, a Carroll County Grand Jury returned a True Bill of indictment against all four defendants, as parties to the crime. In April 2023, Chase Glass and Kaitlyn Arnold each entered guilty pleas for their involvement in this case. Arnold was sentenced to 4 years in confinement followed by 11 years on probation and Glass was sentenced to 7 years in confinement followed by 8 years on probation.

The DA’s Office sincerely appreciates the hard work and dedication of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office in ensuring that all victims of crime are able to receive justice.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-09-09

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2023

On September 6, 2023, Blake Martin, 18, of Villa Rica, pled guilty in Carroll County Superior Court to Rape,
two counts of Aggravated Sodomy, two counts of Aggravated Child Molestation, and other charges.
Pursuant to a guilty plea negotiated by the State, Carroll County Judge Michael Hubbard sentenced Martin
to 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by life on probation and sex offender
registration.

Assistant District Attorney Wade Mason and DA Investigator Katia Detwiler prosecuted the case. Villa Rica
Police Department (VRPD) Detective Chris Rowan led the investigation, which revealed the following:

On November 12, 2022, officers with the Villa Rica Police Department made contact with the occupants of
a vehicle, an adult male and a 12-year-old male, parked in a church parking lot after normal hours. The
occupants of the car were discussing, and disclosed to the officers, that Defendant Blake Martin had
sexually abused the 12-year-old male five years prior in a different county in Georgia. Additionally, officers
were told that a 7-year-old female had disclosed earlier that same day that Defendant Martin had been
sexually abusing her. The independent statements of the children were mutually corroborating.

VRPD Det. Rowan then initiated an investigation that uncovered years of sexual abuse perpetrated by
Defendant Martin against these two children. The Carroll County Child Advocacy Center forensically
interviewed the children and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta physically examined the 7-year-old. When
interviewed by Det. Rowan, Martin denied the allegations.

Martin chose to accept the State’s plea offer of 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole rather
than proceed to trial, which was scheduled for September 18, 2023. If convicted, he faced a mandatory
minimum sentence of 25 years without the possibility of parole and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In reaching the negotiated plea agreement in this case, the District Attorney’s Office sought to balance the
goals of securing a conviction for these victims so they can move forward in their lives; obtaining a
substantial prison sentence without parole to protect the children of our community; and, if possible,
achieving those goals without requiring the child victims to be re-traumatized by testifying in a jury trial.
The District Attorney’s Office is satisfied that the sentence imposed struck the right balance and makes
clear to our community that we are dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of sexual abuse.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-09-07

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 07, 2023

On August 25, 2023, after a weeklong trial, a Troup County jury found Jonathan Taylor Lawrence, now 31, of Hogansville, guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Malice Murder, Threatening a Witness in an Official Proceeding, and Trafficking Methamphetamine. The jury acquitted Lawrence of Criminal Attempt to Commit Malice Murder and an additional count of Threatening a Witness in an Official Proceeding. On September 6, 2023, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger sentenced Lawrence to serve 35 years in prison.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jack Winne prosecuted the case. Troup County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) Lieutenant Jeff Adams was the lead investigator.

At trial, the evidence showed that, on April 24, 2020, TCSO deputies initiated a traffic stop for a suspended registration on East Main Street in Hogansville. Lawrence was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle, in which deputies found just under two ounces of methamphetamine in a container. At the time of his arrest, Lawrence was out on bond for Possession of Methamphetamine for an arrest earlier in 2020.

During the pandemic when jail crowding was a serious problem, Lawrence was granted bond with numerous conditions on the April 2020 Drug Trafficking arrest, and he did not take long to violate those conditions of release. When the State initiated bond revocation proceedings, Lawrence sent menacing and threatening messages to two people he believed were helping the State with prove he was violating bond.

On July 20, 2020, Lawrence’s bond was revoked, and he was sent back to jail. At the bond hearing, a TCSO drug investigator, who was involved as a deputy in the April 24 arrest, testified about some of Lawrence’s bond violations. Approximately a month after Lawrence’s bond was revoked, an inmate came forward and informed TCSO investigators that Lawrence had a “hit” on the drug investigator and was soliciting assistance with getting the drug investigator killed. The evidence admitted at trial suggests that Lawrence took this investigator’s involvement particularly personally because they lived in the same neighborhood in Troup County.

On August 29, 2020, investigators equipped the inmate with a recording device and sent him back into the dorm—in which he and Lawrence were housed. That day, Lawrence was captured on audio recording discussing the plot, describing the layout of the investigator’s neighborhood, and logistics and tactics that could be employed to best carry out the hit at the drug investigator’s house, including drawing a map of the neighborhood. Two days later, the inmate and Lawrence called an undercover TCSO deputy, posing as a hitman. On that recorded call, Lawrence provided contact information for an associate of his who could facilitate a down payment for the hit. (Due to security concerns, the drug investigator victim and inmate source are not named in this release.)

I am thankful that this egregious murderous plot was stopped in its infancy. This Troup County Sheriff’s Office investigator puts his life on the line every day he is on duty, just like every law enforcement officer in this state. The Coweta Circuit’s District Attorney’s Office will seek substantial prison sentences, as was handed down in this case, for those who seek to harm members of our law enforcement community.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-08-15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2023

On August 9, 2023, I was honored to be sworn in by Governor Kemp as his appointee to the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualification Commission (PAQC) Hearing Panel. The PAQC was created by law in the 2023 legislative session and was signed into law by the Governor on May 5, 2023. Codified as OCGA 15-18-32, the law gives the PAQC “the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of appointed or elected district attorneys or solicitors-general[.]” In doing so, the PAQC law relies on Article VI, Section VIII, Paragraph II of the Georgia Constitution, which states, “Any district attorney may be disciplined, removed or involuntarily retired as provided by general law.”

The PAQC consists of eight members, five of which serve on the Commission’s Investigative Panel and three of which serve on the Hearing Panel. Among each panel’s various duties, the Investigatory Panel investigates alleged conduct constituting grounds for discipline according to the law, and the Hearing Panel adjudicates formal charges filed by the Investigative Panel, including issuing disciplinary and incapacity orders. The law directs the Commission to promulgate standards of conduct and rules for the Commission’s governance, which comply with due process and enforce the law’s stated general grounds for discipline, as listed in subsections (h) and (i) of the law.

The members of the PAQC Investigative Panel, appointed as outlined in OCGA 15-18-32(d)(3)(A), are former DA and former Superior Court Judge of the Alcovy Circuit John Ott, Statesboro Attorney Joseph Cowart, Savannah Attorney Steve Scheer, Cobb Circuit Deputy Chief Assistant DA Jason Saliba, and Alcovy Circuit DA Randy McGinley. The members of the PAQC Hearing Panel, appointed as outlined in OCGA 15-18-32(d)(4), in addition to myself, are Chattahoochee Circuit DA Stacey Jackson (also the presiding member of the Hearing Panel) and former DA and former Superior Court Judge of the Macon Circuit Howard Simms.

According to the law, the PAQC commenced on July 1, 2023, and should establish the Commission’s rules and regulations by October 1, 2023. I look forward to serving the State of Georgia and its prosecutors on the PAQC Hearing Panel, which I will do in addition to continuing to serve as District Attorney of the Coweta Judicial Circuit.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-08-11

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2023

On August 11, 2023, a Carroll County jury returned a verdict of guilty against Charles Brian Shoemake, 42, of Roopville, Georgia, for Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sexual Battery, Incest, Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, two counts of Child Molestation, and four counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children. Chief Superior Court Judge John Simpson presided over the trial and will sentence the defendant on a later date, still to be determined. According to Georgia law, the Defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by life on probation and registration as a sex offender.

Assistant District Attorney Wade Mason and DA Investigator Katia Detwiler prosecuted the case. Sgt. Kimberly Hope of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office led the investigation. Shoemake was arrested on September 23, 2022, and remained in jail until this trial.

The evidence presented at trial showed that in February and March of 2022, Charles Shoemake molested the victim, 13, on more than one occasion. In May 2022, the victim disclosed the abuse to two female
relatives, who reported it to the Haralson County Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). The victim then was taken to the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center (CAC)to be forensically interviewed after which law enforcement determined that the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office had jurisdiction of the crimes.

The victim disclosed that the Defendant touched her inappropriately, had her touch him inappropriately, and committed multiple acts of child molestation to include, showing her pornography on his cell phone. The victim was able to describe some of the images she was shown and some of the search terms used. Inv. Hope obtained a search warrant for the Defendant’s residence and vehicle where she located and seized multiple cell phones and other electronic devices. The contents of the Defendant’s cell phones contained over 100 images of child pornography and a search term history consistent with the statement the victim had previously provided authorities.

Regardless of the rest of the evidence presented, justice was done in this case because the victim, now 15, had the courage to face her abuser and testify in court about what he did to her. As in most sex-crimes cases, the victim was the only witness to the crimes she endured. The District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office have immense respect for her resilience and bravery.

As with many cases before it, this case serves as example of the dedication and teamwork of multiple organizations to ensure children are protected and to ensure that those who harm children can be brought to justice according to the law. The District Attorney’s Office thanks DFACS, the Carroll County CAC, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, and those who participated in the criminal justice process for seeing that justice was done for this victim and our community.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-08-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 08, 2023

On August 7, 2023, Freddie Strickland, 47, of Villa Rica, was sentenced by Carroll County Superior Court Judge John Simpson to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by 60 years on probation without the possibility for parole. Underlying that sentence were 12 cases, 11 of which derived from an extensive Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigation, and 1 of which resulted from the Carrollton Police Department arresting Strickland with a trafficking amount of Methamphetamine after he was released on bond in the GBI case. In total, all of these cases included 13 counts of Conspiracy to Violate
the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, 13 counts of Illegal Use of a Communications Facility, 5 counts of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, 2 counts of Trafficking Methamphetamine, and 1 count of Possession of Marijuana with the Intent to Distribute. The sentence was given after Strickland pled guilty to all of the charges rather than proceed to trial.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Nathan Stewart and GBI Agent Damon Morris.

From July 2020 through October 2020, GBI’s West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office (WMRDEO) investigated Strickland for distributing Methamphetamine throughout west Georgia. The WMRDEO is comprised of GBI agents and investigators from law enforcement agencies in the west Georgia area. WMRDEO has the ability to investigate drug trafficking across multiple counties and bring together the resources of multiple local law enforcement agencies and the GBI. The members of WMRDEO and other law enforcement agencies spent hundreds of hours investigating Freddie Strickland and his associates.

Due to their efforts, Strickland was arrested on September 10, 2020. In addition to his arrest, this investigation netted over 20 co-conspirators, approximately 40 kilograms of Methamphetamine, multiple firearms, large amounts of cash, and multiple vehicles, which the investigation proved Strickland used to transport Methamphetamine. While Strickland was out on bond from his September 2020 arrest, members of the Carrollton Police Department ACE Unit executed a search warrant at Strickland’s residence on September 21, 2022 and found him in a workshop on the property in the presence of approximately 2 kilograms of Methamphetamine and packaging materials.

During Strickland’s guilty plea, Agent Morris testified that Strickland was the leader of the largest Methamphetamine distribution network that has ever been brought to justice in Carroll County. Two members of the Carroll County community, including a leader of the Carroll Count Drug Court, also testified during the plea about the devastating effect of Methamphetamine addiction in the community. The District Attorney shares their sentiment and believes major drug traffickers with substantial criminal histories, like Freddie Strickland, deserve substantial prison time without the possibility of parole, because they have chosen to seek to profit at the expense of members of our community who suffer from drug addiction.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-07-08

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 08, 2023

On July 7, 2023, a Carroll County jury returned a verdict of guilty against Aaron JuJuan Shelton, 25, of Birmingham, Alabama, for multiple counts of Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault on Law Enforcement Officers, Aggravated Battery on Law Enforcement Officers, Felony Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and other charges. Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger presided over the trial and will sentence the defendant on July 13, 2023 at 2:00 pm.

The case was prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger, Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd, Assistant District Attorney Caley McDonald, and DA Investigator Katia Detwiler. Several law enforcement agencies responded to this crime in real time and many assisted in the investigation and prosecution, including Carrollton Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Villa Rica Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Douglasville Police Department, Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, University of West Georgia Police Department, the Georgia State Patrol (GSP), and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. I commend and thank the men and women in law enforcement from the surrounding jurisdictions who played a part in this case. The evidence presented at trial revealed the following:

On April 12, 2021, at approximately 3:30 a.m., GSP Trooper Zack Pruitt observed a Nissan Sentra driving 111 mph on Interstate 20 Eastbound in Carroll County. Trooper Pruitt initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, and a chase ensued at speeds exceeding 100 mph. Defendant Aaron Shelton was driving the vehicle and his cousin Pier Shelton was in the passenger seat. As the defendant fled from Trooper Pruitt, Pier Shelton fired an AK-47 style rifle at the trooper from the front passenger window. Pier Shelton’s shots hit the trooper’s vehicle and disabled it, but the trooper was uninjured. Local law enforcement agencies were notified of the chase and that shots were fired and responded to the area.

Approximately 30 minutes later, Carrollton Police Department officers identified the vehicle and the Defendant again fled from law enforcement. The chase was led by Carrollton Police Department Sergeant Rob Holloway and Corporal Richard Cheatwood. The defendant fled from the Highway 166 bypass northbound near Newnan Road to Highway 61 northbound, again reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Once again, Pier Shelton fired his weapon from the vehicle at the pursuing police officers. By this time, deputies with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office had also joined the pursuit, and they also took fire. A bullet struck Sgt. Holloway in the head through the windshield of his patrol car, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and strike a utility pole. Carrollton Police Department Officers stopped to render aid and Carroll County Deputies led by Corporal Jamison Troutt and Deputy Mike Reed continued the pursuit.

As the vehicle approached the city of Villa Rica, just south of Whitworth Road, the defendant turned off of Highway 61, and both suspects fled on foot. A perimeter was soon established along Highway 61 and Whitworth Road. Approximately 25 minutes later, Villa Rica Police Department Officer Chase Gordy was fired upon by Pier Shelton while guarding the northern perimeter along Whitworth Road. Officer Gordy was shot in the arm and the leg. Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Troutt and Deputy Jay Repetto immediately went to Officer Gordy’s location and Pier Shelton fired at them, striking Deputy Repetto in the arm. Both deputies returned fire, striking and killing Pier Shelton. Aaron Shelton continued to flee on foot northbound and ultimately hid in the woods. GSP’s aviation unit assisted in locating Aaron Shelton, and he was apprehended by members of the GSP’s SWAT team.

The indictment against Aaron Shelton contained 22 counts. He was charged for his actions as the driver of the vehicle and as a party to the crimes of Pier Shelton. He was also charged with three counts of felony murder for committing felony crimes which led to the death of Pier Shelton. The evidence presented in this case proved, and the jury found, that Aaron Shelton willingly participated in all of the crimes that occurred during this crime spree. In light of this evidence, the jury rejected his claim that he was coerced by Pier Shelton.

This case demonstrates the importance and value of Georgia’s felony murder statute. It is just that Aaron Shelton face a mandatory life sentence for felony murder as a consequence of his being a party to the crime of Pier Shelton’s attempts to kill numerous police officers which resulted in Pier Shelton being killed by law enforcement as they defended themselves.

More importantly, this case serves as a reminder to all of us what every law enforcement officer and their family face every single day that they put on their uniform. Protecting and serving their community means they are willing to put their lives on the line at a moment’s notice. It is too easy to forget and take for granted the bravery exhibited every day by our law enforcement community. We all owe them our thanks and respect every day.

At the conclusion of the Sheltons’ crime spree, three law enforcement officers had been shot and seven had been fired upon. Miraculously, Sgt. Holloway survived being shot in the head and has returned home to his family. These crimes affected the officers involved, their families, their agencies, and our entire community, and it will continue to. I am in awe of the bravery and commitment to service of each of these officers, and all of those who serve alongside them.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-06-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 19, 2023

On June 14, 2023, a Carroll County jury found Michael Jacob Brantley, 19, of Carrollton, guilty of Aggravated Sexual Battery, four counts of Child Molestation, and Sexual Battery Against a Child Under 16. Superior Court Judge Dustin Hightower presided over the trial and set the sentencing hearing for July 24, 2023.

Assistant District Attorney Caley McDonald prosecuted the case with the assistance of Carrol County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Kim Hope who was the lead investigator.

The evidence presented at trial showed that Brantley repeatedly molested his biological nephew and niece, 11 and 12 years old at the time, over a period of several months beginning in August 2021. The abuse typically occurred in the early morning as the children were waiting for their school bus at Brantley’s house while their father was at work.

The investigation began on October 26, 2021 when the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office received a referral from the Department of Children and Family Services (DFACS). One of the victims disclosed the abuse to their Mount Zion Elementary school counselor and the school contacted DFACS, consistent with normal protocol.

As part of Sgt. Hope’s investigation, the Carroll County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) forensically interviewed both children and both disclosed sexual abuse by Brantley. The Sheriff’s Office arrested Brantley on December 17, 2021 and he remained in custody at the Carroll County Jail until the trial.

At trial, the victims bravely testified at trial about the abuse they endured any time Brantley had a chance to catch them alone. While the extensive investigation yielded evidence corroborating that testimony, the victims, 13 and 14 at the time of trial, were the only people able to testify about what they experienced. In most sex-crime cases, the victim is the only witness.

There are many organizations responsible for protecting children in our community and holding accountable those who abuse children. This case serves as a good example of these organizations working together to remove children from harm, investigate the cause of that harm, and ultimately achieve justice for the victims of that harm. The DA’s Office sincerely appreciates the cooperation and work of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Carroll County CAC, Mount Zion Elementary School, DFACS, and everyone at the Carroll County courthouse who ensures trials are conducted fairly and efficiently.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-05-26

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 26, 2023

On May 25, 2023, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger sentenced Christopher Halver-Gene Hansen, 36, to 20 years in prison followed by 20 years on probation for multiple acts of domestic violence. This sentencing followed a Carroll County jury’s conviction of Hansen on May 2, 2023 for charges of Terroristic Acts, Criminal Trespass, and two counts of Aggravated Assault under the Family Violence Act. Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd prosecuted the case with the assistance of Victim Advocate Michelle Lopez.

The evidence admitted at trial revealed that in the summer of 2018, Hansen and the victim began a romantic relationship and ultimately began living together in Hansen’s residence in Temple, Georgia. Beginning around November 2018, Hansen became increasingly physically and verbally abusive towards the victim. Through this abusive behavior, Hansen began isolating the victim from her friends and family as a form of manipulation and control over her. On different occasions, Hansen broke the victim’s cellphone to prevent her from calling anyone for help. At other times, the victim found the air released from her vehicle’s tires after arguments with Hansen.

To help the jury understand the nature of domestic violence relationships, the State called Michele Bedingfield, an expert in domestic violence, to testify in the trial. Bedingfield explained to the jury the patterns of manipulation and control that abusers commonly use against romantic partners. She explained the cycle of domestic violence and how abusers use a combination of violence, threats, false apologies and promises to make it difficult for victims to leave the abusive relationship, which people unfamiliar with domestic violence might assume would be easy to leave. Similarly, Bedingfield also explained why many victims of domestic violence never report the abuse to law enforcement.

The evidence supporting Count 1, Terroristic Acts related to a December 3, 2018, incident. At that time, Hansen lost his temper during an argument with the victim and poured a can of gasoline on the victim’s head, soaking her entire body and clothing. Despite being intensely afraid of being set on fire, and with her vision blurred from gasoline fumes, the victim managed to get to the shower to wash off the gasoline. Consistent with the behavior of a domestic abuser, Hansen blamed the victim for supposedly making him do this to her and even complained to the victim that she dripped gasoline in the house on her way to the shower.

The evidence supporting Count 2, Aggravated Assault, Family Violence related to a December 17, 2018, incident. In the midst of another argument, the victim tried to leave the house to get away, but Hansen grabbed her by the arm, pulled her back into the residence, and slammed the victim onto a coffee table, breaking it. Hansen then pulled out his pistol and pointed it at her face, threatening her if she ever left him.

The evidence supporting Count 3, Criminal Trespass, related to an April 6, 2019 incident where Hansen threw a trailer hitch into the victim’s windshield, breaking it, after the victim began to drive away during an argument.

The evidence supporting Count 4, Aggravated Assault, Family Violence and Count 5, Theft by Taking, related to an April 9, 2019 incident, in which, during another argument, Hansen strangled the victim. This incident resulted in bruising to the victim, which her family saw. While Hansen had managed to isolate the victim from her family and scare her from seeking help, the victim’s family intervened after this strangulation and helped the victim escape Hansen. However, the night that the victim left Hansen, he transferred $3,000 from her account to his account without her permission. The jury found Hansen guilty of all counts.

The District Attorney wishes to recognize the bravery displayed by the victim in this case, who is now a survivor and champion of supporting others in abusive relationships. As a survivor, she overcame tremendous physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Hansen, but she fearlessly faced him in court. She displayed her strength in the face of many hours of aggressive cross-examination at trial. The District Attorney hopes this case will give hope and encouragement to all those experiencing domestic abuse. If they seek the help provided by shelters, law enforcement, and prosecutors, they too can get the justice and safety they deserve.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-05-19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2023

On May 16, 2023, after a one-day trial, a Carroll County jury convicted Shane Martin Jones of one count of Exploitation or Intimidation of a Disabled Adult, two counts of Aggravated Assault, Family Violence, and one count of Battery, Family Violence in Carroll Superior Court Case No. 19-CR-903. After trial, the Honorable Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Jones to 20 years to serve in prison followed by 20 years of probation. During sentencing, Judge Sakrison remarked that Jones’ actions were “very disturbing.”

The case was prosecuted by Sr. ADA Nathan Stewart and investigated by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

The evidence presented at trial showed that in the early morning hours of December 28th, 2017, Jones began attacking his wife while they were in bed together. His wife, who wears two prosthetic legs, struggled to attach her legs, get their 11-year-old daughter, and escape the house. While she was in this process, Jones struck her in the face and chest, strangled her, and held a loaded pistol to her head, remarking that he’d “rather kill them all than live without her.” Their daughter witnessed all of this and testified against her father in the trial. The jury was also presented with evidence of prior violent acts committed by Jones against his wife, including one instance in Florida where Jones removed his wife’s legs and used them to attack her.

I am pleased that yet another domestic abuser has been held accountable and will be spending significant time in prison. I hope this case serves as an example to victims of abuse who want to escape their abuser. This office and our partners in law enforcement will respond and will do everything we can to get you the justice and protection you deserve.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-05-12

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2023

On May 12, 2023, Kilpatrick Key, 42, of Douglasville, Ga, entered a negotiated guilty plea to a 15-count indictment
charging Attempted Murder, Home Invasion, Aggravated Stalking, Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Assault on a
Peace Officer, Aggravated Battery, Fleeing a Police Officer, and Cruelty to Children-1st Degree. Senior Judge David T.
Emerson presided over the plea and sentenced Key, as negotiated by the State, to life in prison with the possibility
of parole. This was the maximum sentence allowed by law for Home Invasion. In exchange for Key’s acceptance of
this plea, the State agreed to recommend to the Court that the sentences for all other charges run concurrent, rather
than consecutive to his Life sentence.

The charges stemmed from an incident in Douglas County on September 28, 2020 at the residence of Key’s estranged
spouse in the Stewart’s Mill Community. Key previously had been served with a Temporary Restraining Order to
stay away from the residence, but he violated that order, broke into the home, and proceeded to assault his spouse
with a knife. During the assault, Key threatened to not only kill his spouse, but also his three minor children who
were present to witness the assault of their mother. Fortunately, one of the children was able to call law enforcement, who responded to the scene.

Upon the arrival of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Key fled the residence and managed to steal a deputy’s vehicle in the driveway. When the deputy attempted to prevent Key from fleeing in the patrol vehicle, Key struck the deputy with the vehicle and drove away at a high rate of speed. Other deputies pursued Key as he drove dangerously through the neighborhood until he lost control of the vehicle, wrecked it, and fled on foot. He was quickly apprehended.

Key’s actions caused severe and permanent physical injuries to his spouse, and severe emotional trauma to his
children. Members of the Key family were present in Court for the plea and supported this resolution of the case. The
deputy suffered a broken rib and bruising to his abdomen. He and other members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s
Office also attended the plea at the Douglas County Superior Courthouse and supported this resolution to the case.

My office commends the diligent and thorough work of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, especially that of lead
investigator Lieutenant James “Jay” Hayes. Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger prosecuted the case with
the assistance of Victim Advocate Allison Boon, both from the Coweta Judicial Circuit, due to a legal conflict by the
Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.

The Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office was proud to be given the responsibility to see that justice was done in this case. We see cases like this in our jurisdiction, as do many other DA’s Offices, and we were determined to fight for these victims and the Douglas community as we would any other case. While the law requires that Key be eligible for parole in 30 years, it is my hope for the sake of his victims, particularly his family, that he never be released from prison.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-05-05

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 05, 2023

On May 4, 2023, a Carroll County jury convicted Brandon Rounsaville, 29, of Carrollton, Georgia, for all indicted crimes based on his kidnapping and sexually assaulting two college students in 2021. Rounsaville was indicted in Superior Court Case No. 22-CR-0020 with Kidnapping with Bodily Injury, Kidnapping, two counts of Aggravated Sodomy, Aggravated Sexual Battery, two counts of Robbery by Intimidation (x2), and two counts of Terroristic Threats. Carroll County Judge Michael Hubbard presided over the trial and sentenced Rounsaville to Life in Prison without the Possibility of Parole.

Assistant District Attorneys Wade Mason and Jessica Williams-Vickery prosecuted the case. Investigator Brandon Wilson with the Carrollton Police Department was the lead investigator.

In the early morning hours of October 31, 2021, officers with the Carrollton Police Department and the University of West Georgia Police Department responded to the Riverpoint Apartments in reference to the sexual assault of two college students. The victims had been walking back to their apartment from a school trip when Rounsaville approached them stating that he had a firearm and that he would kill them both if they did not comply with his demands. Rounsaville forced both victims to undress and move to the back of the building, where he forced them both to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint. One of the victims eventually ran to the front of the apartment complex screaming for help. The evidence presented at trial showed that Rounsaville chased her down, tackled her to the ground, and drug her through the parking lot in between two vehicles where he forced his fingers into her vagina. Due to the victims screaming, Rounsaville fled the scene and both victims called 9-1-1. Law enforcement arrived within minutes. Rounsaville was apprehended within half an hour of the assault and was found by law enforcement hiding under a bridge. At trial, both victims gave compelling and emotional testimony about the horrific assault they had both endured. In trial, both victims identified Rounsaville as their attacker. In addition, the jury was presented with evidence that both victims’ DNA was swabbed from Rounsaville’s genitals.

This case was the nightmare that every female college student and her parents fear. A stranger, with no association with their university, kidnapped them and sexually assaulted them under threat of death. I cannot find the words to convey my reaction to this crime. However, I have total clarity that justice was served by sentencing this defendant to remain in prison for the rest of his life. I am in awe of the bravery and resilience shown by these two survivors and I hope they feel a little safer knowing this defendant will never walk free.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-04-24

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2023

On April 19th, 2023, Donald Staley, of Villa Rica, pled guilty to one count each of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, and Aggravated Assault. Pursuant to an agreement with the State, Superior Court Judge John Simpson sentenced Mr. Staley to a life sentence, with the possibility of parole. Staley was born in 1942.

The investigation showed that on June 30th, 2022, Staley purchased a revolver and ammunition, drove home, placed a pillow over his wife, Judith Staley’s head, and shot her once. He then dialed 911 and said he’d shot his wife and was going to shoot himself. Officers with the Georgia State Patrol and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office responded and were able to take Staley into custody while Judith was life-flighted to a trauma hospital. She later died of the gunshot wound. Staley gave two separate interviews to law enforcement, in which he admitted to having shot his wife and expressed no remorse for doing so.

Senior ADA Nathan Stewart prosecuted this case, with the assistance of DA Investigators Shannon Bramblett and Katia Detwiler. The case was investigated by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kim Hope.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-04-24

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2023

On April 19, 2023, Ryan Costley, of Newnan, Georgia, pled guilty to one count each of Aggravated Sodomy, Incest, and Child Molestation, as well as two counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery. Pursuant to an agreement with the State, Superior Court Judge John Simpson sentenced Mr. Costley to a life sentence, with the possibility of parole.

The investigation showed that on January 1, 2022, Costley and his mother were babysitting his nieces, aged 1 and 3, in Carrollton, Georgia. While his mother and the 1 year old were napping, Costley took the 3 year old into a guest bedroom and sexually violated her. The victim told her mother about these acts that night, and her mother confronted Costley about them. Costley admitted to the allegations and fled the scene. After he was arrested Costley made an admission to his mother on a recorded phone line and confessed to investigators with the Carrollton Police Department.

Senior ADA Nathan Stewart prosecuted this case, with the assistance of DA Investigator Shannon Bramblett. The case was investigated by the Carrollton Police Department Investigators Vonda Thomas and Brandon Podaras.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-04-03

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 03, 2023

On March 31, 2023, Marcus Strozier, Jr., of Newnan, Ga, was found guilty of Felony Murder by a Coweta County jury in Coweta County Superior Court Case 2023-R-158. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Strozier to Life in prison. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on count two – Aggravated Assault with a firearm, so a mistrial was declared as to that count.

Assistant District Attorneys Jillian Cannon and Magen Bateman prosecuted the case with the assistance of Detective Daniel Godfrey of the Newnan Police Department. The evidence presented at trial showed the following:

On April 22, 2021 Carlesha Wells went to Strozier’s residence on Neal Street in Newnan, Georgia. The two had been in a relationship for some time but allegations of Strozier’s infidelity had caused tension between them. What began as an argument between the two on the front steps on the 22nd escalated into an altercation inside the residence. At some point Strozier produced a firearm and shot Carlesha in the middle of her chest from close range. Because Carlesha was standing at the threshold of the door, she fell onto her back in the front yard of Strozier’s residence. She had no weapons on her person and Strozier fled the scene before law enforcement arrived. First responders took Carlesha to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. At trial, through his defense counsel, Strozier argued that he accidentally discharged the firearm and did not intend to kill Carlesha.

This murder was senseless and unjustified. In a moment of anger, Marcus Strozier took Carlesha’s life and changed her family’s life, including that of her two small children, forever. It is just that he was found guilty for his actions and that he received a life sentence.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-03-23

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 23, 2023

On March 22, 2023, Davoric Tilman was found guilty of two counts of Aggravated Stalking by a Carroll County jury. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Tilman to 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by 10 years probation. The judge was able to impose a prison sentence without parole because Tilman had multiple prior felony convictions.

Assistant District Attorneys Wade Mason and Karlie Hightower prosecuted the case with the assistance of the prosecuting officer, Investigator Dewayne Harmon of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. The evidence presented at trial showed the following:

Davoric Tilman and the victim met in 2016 and dated on and off until the middle of 2019. Throughout their relationship, Mr. Tilman threatened the victim by consistently telling her that he would find her and kill her if she ever left him and that he would kill anyone she was with at the time. The victim lived in constant fear but finally got the courage to leave Mr. Tilman in 2019, sparking his anger and aggression in response. Shortly after she broke off the relationship, the victim was forced to change her phone number to stop Tilman’s harassing calls to her personal phone, which led to him making multiple threatening calls at her place of work. In response, the victim called law enforcement out of fear for her safety. When Mr. Tilman was unsuccessful with those calls, he went to her place of work where he told her coworkers that he wanted to kill her and that he would go to her residence to find her. This incident led to Tilman’s conviction in Douglas County on April 29, 2020 for Terroristic Threats which included a condition of probation and a Permanent Restraining Order prohibiting contact with the victim and her residence “forever.”

In violation of both the special condition and the Restraining Order, Tilman left a signed note on the victim’s door on April 8, 2022. The victim immediately contacted law enforcement and placed a security camera on the outside of her residence. On April 16, 2022, Tilman went to her residence again and was captured on the camera. These two contacts with the victim’s house were the basis of the two counts of Aggravated Stalking.

Tilman’s behavior, like many domestic abusers we prosecute, shows that often times victims of domestic violence can only be made safe by sending their abuser to prison. The District Attorney’s Office hopes this victim can sleep well for the next decade, safe in the knowledge that she knows exactly where Tilman is. All victims of domestic abuse in our community should know that if they seek help, the DA’s Office is committed to helping them escape their abuser, receive justice, and end the cycle of violence.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-03-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2023

On March 13, 2023, Andrew James Conard, was found guilty of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Home Invasion, Armed Robbery, and Aggravated Battery by a Carroll County jury. After considering the evidence presented at sentencing, including the heinous and senseless nature of the crime, Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge John Simpson sentenced Conard to Life Imprisonment without the possibility of parole, followed by 2 additional life sentences, and 20 additional years.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jep Bendinger, Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd and Assistant District Attorney Caley McDonald prosecuted the case. Investigator Nick Miller of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator.

The evidence showed that on the evening of May 9, 2020, 83-year-old Barbara Gibson was in her home preparing to take Mother’s Day gifts to friends and neighbors of the Burwell Community in Carroll County. At approximately 6:00 p.m., Conard and co-defendant Amanda Sperry arrived at Ms. Gibson’s home with the intention to rob her. Conard pulled his vehicle in into Gibson’s carport, exited the vehicle, knocked on Gibson’s door, and then shot her multiple times immediately after she answered. Conard and Sperry left the residence, only to return a short time later to steal various items of property from Ms. Gibson, to include jewelry, her wallet, and Ms. Gibson’s sewing machine. The defendants then fled.

The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office launched one of the most extensive investigations in Carroll County history, led by Investigator Nick Miller. Using novel and cutting edge techniques, Sperry and Conard were identified as the suspects in Ms. Gibson’s murder. Investigators located the murder weapon and several items of Gibson’s property inside the residence of the defendants.

Investigators also learned that the defendants spent much of their money on methamphetamine, scratch-off lottery tickets, and video poker. In early May of 2020, Sperry was caught stealing lottery tickets and cash from her employer and without another source of income to fund their vices, Conard and Sperry decided to rob citizens of Carroll County. For three days prior to the murder, the couple drove around the County targeting elderly persons in rural areas. Their motive was robbery and they sought citizens that might be alone, isolated, and unable to fight back. The evidence at trial showed that they targeted Ms. Gibson for exactly this reason.

After her arrest, Sperry confessed to her role in the case. She agreed to testify in the trial of Conard in exchange for a 60 year sentence, with the first 40 years to serve in prison. Sperry ultimately testified in the trial of Conard, and played a substantial role in Conard’s conviction.

I commend the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office for their great work on this case. We appreciate the service of the Carroll County jurors that acted as fact finders in this trial. By holding the Defendant accountable for this senseless and excessive 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

2023-03-03

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 03, 2023

On March 2, 2023, a Heard County jury found Micah Blake Taylor, 30, of Lincoln, Alabama, guilty of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, two counts of Aggravated Assault, and Concealing the Death of Another. Taylor’s codefendant, Jenae Dickinson, of Roanoke, Alabama, previously pled guilty to Aggravated Assault and Concealing the Death of Another with an agreement to be sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation in exchange for her truthful testimony in Taylor’s trial. The victim, Regina Trotter, 47 at the time of her death, from Heflin, Alabama, had been found deceased in Heard County 2 miles from the Georgia-Alabama line on February 1, 2021.

The case was prosecuted by District Attorney Craford with lead investigator Lt. Dan Boswell of the Heard County Sheriff’s Department. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), led by Agent Larry Duren, assisted in the investigation. Superior Court Judge Dustin “Dusty” Hightower presided over the trial and sentenced Taylor to Life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 10 years in prison. The trial was attended by multiple members of Trotter’s family, three of whom gave statements to the Court during the sentencing hearing, which was conducted following the guilty verdict. The evidence presented at trial showed the following:

Two hunters found Trotter’s body discarded on a desolate dirt road in Heard County. Investigators, and a GBI Crime Scene Specialist, found a ligature tied tightly in a knot around Trotter’s throat and saw two stab wounds to Trotter’s neck and face. Next to the body, they recovered brass knuckles and a can of Great Value brand potatoes. GBI crime lab analysts later located Taylor’s DNA on the brass knuckles. Trotter was on her back but had no dirt on the soles of her shoes, which suggested to investigators that she had been thrown from a vehicle.

Weeks before Trotter’s murder, Trotter had allowed Taylor to live in her trailer in Heflin, Alabama with her and her roommate. On the morning of January 31, 2021, Taylor took the keys for Trotter’s brown 2004 Ford Freestar van and drove the van to Dickinson’s residence in Roanoke, AL. Text messages from the Verizon accounts of Taylor and Trotter, obtained by investigators, revealed that Trotter repeatedly texted Taylor to bring her van back to the trailer because he took it without permission. Multiple witnesses, including Trotter’s roommate, testified that Trotter said that day that Taylor had stolen her van. Dickinson testified that when she asked Taylor about the van, Taylor stated that he “hoped” the van would be his soon.

In the evening of January 31, 2021, Taylor and Dickinson drove the van back to Trotter’s residence at which time Trotter told Taylor he could not live at her trailer anymore. Dickinson, who had never previously met Trotter, asked Trotter for a ride back to her house in Roanoke, AL, and Trotter agreed to do so. In her last series of text messages to friends, Trotter conveyed that Taylor had returned in the van and that she was giving “them” a ride to Wedowee, AL. Dickinson testified that Trotter initially believed Dickinson’s residence to be in Wedowee.

A few miles from Dickinson’s residence, Taylor instructed Trotter to turn left, which took them into Heard County, Georgia, rather than to turn right, which would have led to Dickinson’s residence. Dickinson testified that Taylor, who sitting in the seat behind Trotter, put a rope around Trotter’s neck and instructed Dickinson to put the van in park, which Dickinson did. Dickinson drove the van down the road until Taylor pulled Trotter’s body from the van onto the road where it was located on February 1st. Dickinson testified that she did not know that Taylor also stabbed Trotter before discarding her body. Dickinson testified that she was dropped at her house later that night and that Taylor left with the van.

Trotter’s roommate, who was not at the trailer when Taylor and Dickinson brought the van back to Trotter, testified to arriving home to the trailer around midnight to find Taylor in Trotter’s van without Trotter but with Trotter’s purse. Taylor told the roommate he was unsure of Trotter’s location. Taylor ultimately left the trailer in the van and was arrested on February 4, 2021, by Alabama authorities for theft of the van. A search of the van revealed a towel, which tested positive for blood and for the DNA of Taylor and Trotter. Also in the van were three cans of Great Value brand potatoes.

The District Attorney is thankful for the people of Heard County, especially its law enforcement community and this jury, for giving Regina Trotter and her family justice. While the motive for this heinous and brutal murder is beyond understanding, given that a 2004 van is all that Taylor gained from it, a commonality among the defendant, victim, and all their testifying associates was addiction to Methamphetamine. This drug, and many other highly addictive drugs like it, remain a scourge on our circuit and many other communities. As stated during sentencing by the judge, Taylor’s mother, and Trotter’s family- it is likely the case that but for the ravages of Methamphetamine addiction, Trotter would be alive and Taylor would not be spending the rest of his life in prison.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-02-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 17, 2023

On February 15, 2023, a jury in the Superior Court of Carroll County found Cameron Shemar Allen, 20, of Carrollton, guilty of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Possession Firearm During Commission of Felony. The jury also found Jadarakis Avuntray Caldwell, 20, of Carrollton, guilty of Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Possession Firearm During Commission of Felony. Superior Court Judge Erica Tisinger presided over the trial and has scheduled sentencing for Mr. Allen and Mr. Caldwell on March 30, 2023.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Lara Todd prosecuted the case. Investigator Jeremy McCormick of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator.

On November 22, 2020, in the early morning hours, the Bowdon Police Department was called out to Angela Avenue in reference to a shooting. Once on scene, the Bowdon Police Department found the victim, Christopher Parker, 19, deceased from a gunshot wound to the chest. Witnesses on scene provided investigators with a description of the suspect vehicle and a shell casing near the victim was recovered from the scene. A BOLO on the suspect vehicle was put out and the vehicle was identified by a Carroll County deputy on Highway 61 at Ira Smith and Dyer Road. The driver of the vehicle stopped his vehicle, never attempted to flee from law enforcement, and was arrested without incident. However, the back seat passenger and front seat passenger ran from the vehicle in the direction of Ivy Court. In the vehicle, under the front passenger seat, a Glock .40 caliber handgun was located. A further search of the vehicle revealed two ski masks, gloves, and the cell phone of the back seat passenger.

During the investigation it was determined that the back seat passenger was Jadarakis Avuntray Caldwell, and the front seat passenger was Cameron Shemar Allen. A witness testified in trial to picking up Caldwell and Allen in the area of the traffic stop in the relevant time frame. The same day law enforcement executed a search warrant at the home of Caldwell and recovered the hoodie and sweater believed to be worn by Caldwell, as seen by the deputy who stopped the suspect vehicle.

The firearm located under the front passenger seat was tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, who confirmed it matched the shell casing found at the crime scene. Allen and Caldwell were on the run until December 17, 2020, when they were located together in Atlanta, Georgia, by members of the US Marshals Service. Social media records obtained in the investigation confirmed that Allen and Caldwell were actively taking steps to flee Carroll County and avoid being discovered by law enforcement. Although the driver was initially reluctant to speak to investigators and was charged with murder, he ultimately chose to tell the truth about the shooting, as corroborated by the other evidence, and the State agreed to plea him guilty to Hindering the Apprehension of a Criminal on February 15, 2023.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-02-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2022

On February 13, 2023, after a weeklong trial, a Carroll County jury found Aaron Tarrie Ashley, Sr. guilty of one count of Malice Murder, one count of Felony Murder, one count of Aggravated Assault, one count of Concealing the Death of Another, one count of Tampering with Evidence, one Count of Theft by Taking, and one count of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.

At trial, the evidence showed that, in the early morning hours of January 19, 2020, Ashley shot and killed Christopher Cook with a shotgun in the Ashley’s own house, before subsequently moving Mr. Cook’s body to the backyard, covering him with a camouflage sleeping bag and dead tree limbs, cleaning up the crime scene, and hiding the murder weapon at another individual’s home. The defendant was later taken into custody after a multi-hour standoff with law enforcement in Bremen, GA. At trial, the defendant claimed that he acted in self-defense by shooting Mr. Cook, but with its verdict, the jury rejected Ashley’s claim that he was justified.

This case was investigated by Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Kim Hope and prosecuted by the Carroll County District Attorney’s Office. Senior ADA Nathan Stewart and Chief Deputy ADA Robert Mooradian presented the case to the jury with the assistance of Inv. Hope, Inv. Shannon Bramblett of the District Attorney’s Office, and the aid and support of the entire Carroll County District Attorney’s Office. The Honorable Judge Michael Hubbard presided over the case; sentencing is currently scheduled for March 23, 2023.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2023-02-09

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2023

On February 3, 2023, a Coweta County jury found Marcus Allen Daniels guilty of two counts of Armed Robbery for the October 2, 2016 armed robbery of the Waffle House located on Highway 154 in Sharpsburg near Exit 51. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Travis Sakrison sentenced Daniels to a total of 30 years to serve 25 years in prison.

Chief Deputy Assistant District Attorney Robert Mooradian prosecuted and tried the case. Coweta County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Troy Foles was the lead investigator at the time of the offense.

The investigation revealed the following: On October 2, 2016, at approximately 11:15 pm, three unidentified individuals travelled to the Waffle House located near Exit 51 in Sharpsburg. While the getaway driver remained in the vehicle, two masked individuals entered the restaurant, which was occupied at the time by one waitress and the cook. One of the masked individuals brandished a firearm, threatening the waitress, “Put the money in the bag, bitch, or you’re going to die.” As the other individual collected money from the register in a bag, the cook let out a nervous laugh, which caused the armed suspect put the gun to the cook’s back, before stealing the cook’s wallet and cell phone. As the robber’s fled out the store, the gunman slipped and fell. The robbers then fled back to Union City. Sgt. Troy Foles responded to the scene, and as part of his investigation, was able to locate the victim’s stolen cell phone discarded on the side of Interstate 85 Northbound not far from Exit 51. Inv. Troy Foles submitted the cell phone to the GBI Crime Lab for testing, to include latent fingerprint examination.

After a tip led to identifying Daniels as one of the suspects, the tipster stated that Daniels described slipping as he ran out of the Waffle House and targeting the cook who laughed at him. This tip indicated Daniels was the gunman in the robbery. When Daniels was arrested, he was found in possession of a cellphone which contained the following text exchange from October 1, 2016 (the evening before the armed robbery).

Daniels: I need some fetti wap bad

Bshot Brimin: Me 2 what Yu tryna do

Daniels: Anything I got a waffle house off sharpsburg exit dumb sweet jus gotta steel a tag

Bshot Brimin: Ball me at (redacted) wen Yu ready

(The individual referred to as Bshot Brimin was identified at trial, and is currently serving a life sentence for Murder out of Fulton County. The third suspect in the armed robbery has never been identified.)

At trial a GBI fingerprint expert testified that Daniels’ fingerprints were found on the cook’s stolen cell phone which was found on the interstate after the crime. FBI Special Agent Jay Berni explained how Tmobile records showed that the phone in Defendant’s possession travelled from Union City down to Coweta County and back towards Union City during the precise time frame of the Waffle House Armed Robbery. Between the text message conversation and these phone records, this evidence showed Daniels and his accomplices specifically targeted our community and this Waffle House for this crime.

Although this case took a long time, including through the pandemic, to be presented to a Coweta County Jury, justice was ultimately served with this conviction and sentence of 25 years in prison without parole. Mr. Daniels chose to come to Coweta County and target law-abiding, hardworking members of our community, and I hope other criminals like him learn a lesson from this case.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-12-09

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 09, 2022

On December 7, 2022, a Carroll County Jury returned a Guilty Verdict against Garrett Justin Wood, of Villa Rica, GA, for Trafficking Methamphetamine, More Than 400 Grams, Possession with Intent to Distribute Alprazolam, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony. Coweta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge John Simpson sentenced Wood to 30 years in prison followed by 20 years on probation.

Assistant District Attorneys Wade Mason and Nathan Stewart prosecuted the case with the assistance of Investigator Ian Wright of the Carrollton Police Department. The evidence presented at trial showed the following:

In the early morning hours of August 26, 2022, officers with the local Aggressive Criminal Enforcement (“A.C.E.”) Unit and Investigators with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on a small camper located off of Legion Lake Road. The two occupants, Garrett Wood and a female associate, were removed from the structure during the search. Upon further investigation, officers recovered from the camper 978 grams of methamphetamine, a baggie of Alprazolam pills, a loaded firearm, and a backpack containing over $6,000 in cash. Following the search, in a mirandized interview Garrett Wood claimed ownership of everything in the camper.

For context, the State of Georgia’s drug trafficking statute’s highest penalty for trafficking methamphetamine requires “a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years.” OCGA 16-13-31(e)(3). This penalty applies when the offender is proven to have possessed methamphetamine in an amount over 400 grams. Wood possessed more than twice that amount.

I commend all law enforcement agencies involved in this case for their commitment to ridding our community of drug traffickers and drug dealers. The District Attorney’s Office is equally committed to seeking multi-year prison sentences for drug traffickers like Mr. Wood, who seek to profit from those who suffer from addiction.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

2022-12-02

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 02, 2022

On November 28, 2022, Qvondre Lawaun McClain pled guilty to three separate felony cases in Carroll County Superior Court and was sentenced by Carroll County Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon to an overall sentence of 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole followed by 20 years on probation. In two of the cases, McClain violently assaulted women that he met online. In the third case, he violently assaulted a fellow jail inmate.

In Case No. 21-CR-462, McClain was indicted for Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and Criminal Trespass for his actions on March 21, 2021. In Case No. 21-CR-1113, McClain was indicted for Aggravated Battery, Aggravated Sodomy, Aggravated Assaulted, Theft by Receiving Stolen Property, Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony, and Kidnapping for his acts on July 25, 2021. In Case No. 22-CR-820, McClain was indicted for the Aggravated Battery of a fellow Carroll County Jail inmate on October 2, 2022. In exchange for his agreement to serve this sentence, the State dismissed the counts of Aggravated Sodomy, Theft by Receiving, and Possession of a Firearm in Case No. 21-CR-1113.

The cases were prosecuted by Senior ADA Robert Peterkin and multiple law enforcement personnel from the Carrollton Police Department (CPD) and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). The evidence regarding the crimes committed against the women McClain met online showed the following:

On March 21, 2021, CPD officers were dispatched to a domestic violence altercation that occurred inside a moving car on Bankhead Highway in Carrollton. Upon arrival, officers located a car in a ditch. The driver of the vehicle advised that she met Qvondre McClain on Facebook and she travelled to Carroll County to meet him. When she drove McClain to get food, they got into an argument during which McClain pulled out a gun and said, “I will kill you.” The victim tried to call a friend but McClain grabbed her phone and smashed it. The victim then attempted to drive out of the parking lot, but McClain grabbed the wheel which caused the vehicle to crash into a ditch. The victim had minor physical injuries and was treated by EMTs.

An independent eyewitness stated that she observed the car wreck and saw McClain flee the scene on foot after throwing a gun into the woods. During the roadside investigation, McClain called the victim and told her to not talk to the police and he would pay for the damage to the vehicle with his tax refund. McClain was apprehended near the scene.

On July 25, 2021, CCSO investigators responded to a local hospital in response to a sexual assault. Investigator Sam Hack interviewed the victim who said she met McClain on an online dating application, and drove to his house in Carroll County. The victim initially consented to intercourse with McClain but McClain became violent when she refused to have intercourse without protection. The victim fled the residence in her vehicle but left her wallet and work uniform at McClain’s residence.

Subsequently, McClain agreed to leave the victim’s belongings in his driveway for her to pick up. When she returned to McClain’s house, he grabbed her by the hair, dragged her into his basement, hit her, put a gun to her head, and made her perform oral sex on him. Investigators observed that the victim’s left eye was partially swollen shut and took photographs of her injuries. A search warrant for McClain’s home revealed a gun which matched the description of the weapon that was pointed at the victim’s head and which had been reported stolen from a home in Douglas County.

Both victims were very satisfied with the trial court’s sentence and the victim in the kidnapping case presented a powerful victim statement, which is attached to this press release, for Judge Blackmon’s consideration. Our community and the women in it are safer as a result of this prosecution and sentence.

JOHN HERBERT CRANFORD, JR.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
COWETA JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

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