Richmond County adds homicide investigator

Richmond County sheriff's investigators at the scene of a double homicide earlier this month.

In response to this month's eight homicides -- the most during a single month in the past decade -- the Richmond County Sheriff's Office said Thursday it has put an extra investigator on the cases.


"The number of homicides has made us change the way we do business," said Maj. Ken Autry, who oversees the Criminal Investigation Division. "That's a change we had to make not only to handle these cases today but also to know we're prepared in the future."

Mark Dobbins, who has been working on cold case files and sex crimes for the past year, will be transferred into homicide investigations immediately, Autry said.

He pointed out that this is not the first time there have been two homicide investigators.

Investigator Brandon Beckman is the division's main homicide investigator, but some cases have been reassigned to other investigators to spread out the case load.

With just more than a week to go, July has seen the most homicides in a single month in the past 10 years, according to data from the sheriff's office. Eight people have been killed in seven incidents.

"As far as we can tell right now, (the homicides) are not random, and that should make people feel safer," Autry said.

Most of Richmond County's recent cases appear to be drug-related, Autry said Wednesday.

"These people are putting themselves in bad situations," Sgt. Blaise Dresser said. "A lot of times, victims are involved in a dangerous element."

That appears to be the case with Eric Phillips, who was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds Wednesday at Meadowlark Park. The park, which includes a small, sandy baseball diamond, a broad, grassy field and playground, sits in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood.

Dresser said several people must have seen the body but chose not to report it. It was likely there for hours, Dresser said.

Investigators have warrants out for the arrest of Marcus Richardson, 26, of the 3000 block of Libby Drive, on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

Thursday afternoon, Sunset Villa Apartments, the site of Wednesday's other slaying, was as deserted as the playground. The only evidence of trouble was the yellow crime scene tape over the door of Apt. M105.

Neighbors said David Johnson and his wife, Alicia Johnson, frequently argued, a fact confirmed by Dresser. She is now in jail, accused of stabbing her husband in the chest.

The emotions involved with homicides make them particularly hard to anticipate, Autry said.

"Everybody's got to understand that these (homicides) are not predictable," Autry said.

Anyone with information about any of these cases can call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office at (706) 821-1020 or (706) 821-1080.

Staff Writers Sandy Hodson and Kyle Martin contributed to this report.


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Toll of deadly month mounts
Residential areas see more crime
Suspects in killings often have records
Impact of homicide goes beyond victims, killers
Killings tend to rise in summer

A large number of homicides typically occur in July. Police generally attribute an increase in crime during the summer to school being out and more people -- with more time on their hands -- being on the streets.

Richmond County homicides by month since 2000:


*Monthly totals do not include 2010 figures

Richmond County homicides by year since 2000:


*To date

Source: Richmond County Sheriff's Office, Chronicle database