Prosecution continues in Columbia County slaying

A Magistrate Court judge said this morning that there is enough evidence against four Augusta men, one charged with the March shooting of a teen employee at the Belair Conference Center, to proceed with prosecution in Superior Court.

Columbia County Associate Magistrate Judge Jason Troiano said at the preliminary hearing that investigators have sufficient probable cause in the case against Johndrick Lors Levert Barnes, 20, to bind him over to Superior Court for further investigation and prosecution of a murder charge.

Barnes was arrested April 22 and is being held in the Columbia County Detention Center without bond. His attorney, Lindsey Hix, requested a bond hearing, but Troiano said because of the murder charge, Barnes’ bond can only be addressed by a Superior Court judge.

Cases against three Augusta teens – Brandon Devon Berry, 17; Morrieo Demetrius Carswell, 17; Jordan Dashawn Harrison, 18 – charged with making false statements in connection to the shooting also were bound over to Superior Court. A 16-year-old Augusta boy also was charged with making false statements.

At a March 19 birthday party for a granddaughter of the late performer James Brown, conference center employee James Sterling Gillette Jr., 19, was fatally shot.

“We believe, in our speculation, he was shot by someone randomly shooting a weapon,” Columbia County sheriff’s Investigator Randall Chambers said. “We can’t say he was an intended target.”

More than 50 invitations were sent for the “invite only” party, but Chambers said 200 to 300 people showed up. Based on information provided by two confidential sources, a particular song incited some party-goers to throw up gang signs. After being warned, those people did it again and the party was stopped.

“Music was shut down, the lights were turned off and people were told to go home,” Chambers said.

 As the crowd moved outside, shots rang out. One .380-caliber bullet hit Gillette in the abdomen as he tried to lead the panicky crowd back inside.

 “This is a serious case that resulted in the death of an innocent bystander, a good Samaritan,” Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus said.

An email sent to Gillette’s father from someone he refuses to name and information from the confidential sources, who Chambers said were not being named because they would be intimidated, was used to focus on Barnes and the others.

The five men all said they had already left the party when the shooting started.

“They all had different stories about how they got there, who they were with and things of that nature,” Chambers said. “They were all present and they all left together.”

Shell casings found at the conference center match ones found outside Barnes' home.

Troiano also refused to grant bond for Harrison, who has a previous criminal record, stating he believed Harrison would commit a felony, was a flight risk and was likely to intimidate witnesses in the case.

The 16-year-old was previously granted a bond and released from the Regional Youth Detention Center.

The judge did grant bonds for Berry and Carswell, who have no criminal records. Troiano said he had serious reservations about their release without tight restrictions. He feared they would intimidate witnesses or leave the area.

He set a $25,000 bond for each, demanded they wear an ankle bracelet and prohibited them from leaving their homes, having jobs, going to school or church, having a computer in the home, having a cell phone, answering the door, and being in the presence of anyone other than immediate family.

“You are not to be in your front yard or your backyard,” Troiano told the teens, “or have your heads hanging out the windows of your homes.” 


Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110 or




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