Toll of deadly month mounts

Augusta has seen 8 July homicides

Two killings Wednesday brought Augusta's total to eight homicides for the month, 20 for the year so far.


Wednesday's first victim was David Lee Johnson, 23, who was discovered about 2:45 p.m. at Sunset Villa Apartments with a stab wound to the chest.

His wife, Alicia Johnson, told first responders that he had accidently fallen on the knife, but after further investigation she was charged with stabbing him during a fight, according to Capt. Scott Peebles.

Johnson was taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about 3:30 p.m.

Alicia Johnson was booked Wednesday at the county jail on charges of murder and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

Hours later, about 7:15 p.m., deputies were sent to a park at the end of Meadowlark Drive in south Augusta to investigate a shooting. They found 21-year-old Eric Phillips of Barnwell, S.C., shot at least one time. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

July's homicide numbers are already the highest of any month in 2010, but police say the unusually high toll is just a coincidence.

"These things just vary," said Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Ken Rogers. He expects the numbers to level out to average rates soon.

In 2009, August saw the most killings, with five, followed by May and December, with four.

Counting Alicia Johnson, three people have been charged in this month's eight killings.

Jerome Jerrod "Dirt" Sturgis, 22, was arrested July 14 as a suspect in a shooting at a Fourth of July barbecue in the 1900 block of Second Avenue.

Darnell Lorenzo Brown, 19, died after being shot in the head. Two others, a 19-year-old and a 12-year-old, were also shot but have recuperated.

Charges against Sturgis include two counts of aggravated assault, murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Warrants for the arrest of Henry Wright Bailey are pending his release from an Augusta psychiatric hospital, Rogers said. Bailey is the suspect in the death of his 84-year-old wife, Gene, on July 16.

Investigators think the 84-year-old retired surgeon suffocated his wife with a plastic bag before attempting suicide by taking medication. She was in the advanced stages of dementia and was no longer able to move or communicate, authorities said.

Rogers said there doesn't seem to be a common thread between the month's homicides. Investigators are looking at different motives for almost every case.

According to a Bureau of Justice study from 1976 to 2005, cities such as Augusta, with more than 100,000 people, are more likely to see drug- and gang-related homicides and less likely to see domestic and work-related killings.

A database created by The Augusta Chronicle of all homicides since 2005 shows the majority of slayings in Richmond County, 39, resulted from arguments.

Eight were considered drug-related. Robbery, domestic violence and unintended victimization fell in between.

The database considered 108 homicides as having a known motive.

"It's not easy to say a large part of homicides (in Augusta) are this or that," Rogers said.

The circumstances surrounding Augusta's homicides vary as much as the location, he said.

"They happen in good areas and bad areas," Rogers said. "I don't think you can say they always happen in low-income areas."

Investigators expect next month's homicide rate to "level out" with previous months.

"Being that it's up now in July, doesn't mean that it's (consistently) going up," Rogers said.

Staff Writer Kyle Martin contributed to this report.

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The numbers

Augusta homicides in 2010

January - 3

February - 2

March - 1

April - 2

May - 1

June - 3

July, to date - 8

Augusta yearly totals

2009 - 25

2008 - 19

2007 - 25

2006 - 18

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office's Monthly Crime Report

Georgia yearly totals

2009 - 558

2008 - 622

2007 - 712

2006 - 601

Source: Georgia Bureau of Investigation

July homicide victims

Eight victims of homicide have been reported this month in Augusta, bringing the year's total to 20.

- The body of Jquanda Johnson, 27, was found July 2 at M.M. Scott Apartments in the 800 block of Spruce Street. She was last seen June 30; there are no suspects in the stabbing death.

- Darnell Lorenzo Brown, 19, was shot in the head in the 1900 block of Second Avenue on July 4. He died the next day. Jerome Jerrod "Dirt" Sturgis, 22, is in custody.

- The bodies of Jeramie Anthony Hammonds, 20, and Kayla Marie Wells, 19, were discovered July 5 in a wooded area off Glenn Hills Drive. There are no suspects in the shootings.

- The suffocation of Gene Goode Bailey, 84, is considered part of a homicide/attempted suicide. On July 16, her body was found inside her home in the 3200 block of Dresden Way; her husband was found unresponsive. Henry Wright Bailey, 84, is expected to be arrested pending his medical release.

- Deangelo Rondelle Hudgins, 25, was shot in the chest July 18 after he and a fellow military police officer approached a suspicious vehicle in the 5000 block of Sanctuary Drive. Albert James Gilbert, 25, was shot in the abdomen. There are no suspects.

- David Lee Johnson, 23, was found Wednesday at Sunset Villa Apartments in the 1700 block of Essie McIntyre Boulevard. His wife, Alicia Washington Johnson, told officers he had fallen on a knife. She is in custody.

- Eric Phillips, 21, was found Wednesday at Meadowlark Park on Meadowlark Drive. He had been shot to death. The investigation is in the early stages.