Judge refuses to try relatives separately

ELBERTON - Oglethorpe County court officials will call 140 potential jurors for the August trial of two men accused in a gruesome 2006 double murder in Arnoldsville.


Therron Johnson of Athens and his nephew, Randy Lamar Johnson Jr. of Lexington, face robbery and murder charges in the deaths of Ronnie Cooper and Vickie Wolford.

The bodies of Cooper, 53, and Wolford, 39, were found July 7, 2006, inside a blood-stained mobile home near Arnoldsville, in Western Oglethorpe County.

Officials said then the two were shot, but family members have said they heard the couple also were beaten and stabbed.

Superior Court Judge Thomas L. Hodges considered some final issues in a hearing in Elberton on Friday - agreeing to allow each side three more strikes in choosing a jury and denying a defense motion to try the two men separately - clearing the way for a Aug. 24 trial.

Attorney J. Christopher NeSmith, who represents Randy Johnson, asked Hodges to reconsider an earlier decision to try the men together, arguing that evidence and testimony to clear one man might implicate the other.

As he considered the request Friday, Hodges acknowledged that attorneys might use his decision to appeal a verdict if the men are convicted in a single trial.

Three years will have passed by the time a jury considers evidence in the case.

In the wake of the 2006 murders, Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith said he knew who committed the crimes, but didn't have enough evidence to arrest them. A year later, authorities arrested the Johnsons, men with long arrest records in Athens and Oglethorpe County.

Then, just days before the case was to go to trial this May, the public defender representing Therron Johnson found he has represented several of the witnesses and asked to be excused because of the conflicts.

Hodges allowed him to withdraw and appointed Harvey Wasserman, a Carnesville attorney.



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