Fewer than half of the people indicted for murder in 2010’s near record-setting number of homicides in Richmond County have gone to trial or pleaded guilty to their crimes over the past year.
As recently as last month, there were two trials in connection with one of the deadliest years in more than a decade. In January, Curtis Lemont Carter was acquitted of murder and weapons charges connected to the March 13 shooting at Cherry Tree Crossing that killed Scotty Mathis.
Brandon White was found guilty of murder after a jury agreed he was the driver connected to a drive-by shooting Sept. 17 that killed an innocent bystander, Damion Collier. Other cases from 2010 have ended in pleas or have been conditionally closed, including the case of Terron Hall on Jan. 3. An indictment says Hall was responsible for the death of Eric Phillips at Meadowbrook Park on July 21, but the case was placed on the dead docket for lack of witnesses or co-defendants.
“The case has been previously continued for this purpose, without success. (Richmond County Sheriff’s Office) Investigators are actively pursuing such persons,” a court order reads.
Altogether, 36 people have been indicted in connection with 29 of the 37 victims of homicide in 2010. Two people have been charged in connection with two different incidents; Marcus Demitrius Tyler and Andre Maurice Jackson are charged in the deaths of both Janee Johnson on June 20 and again June 21 with L.V. Wilson III.
In some cases, suspects have been identified, but not indicted; retired doctor Henry Bailey was arrested for the death of his wife, but died in jail before he was indicted. Out of those indicted, 17 defendants have had their cases resolved in some fashion, leaving 19 cases open.
With a few exceptions, most of the defendants with closed cases are now serving life sentences in prison, including White. Carter was acquitted, but still faces a charge of aggravated battery for punching a woman Jan. 18, 2010, and breaking her wrist and eye socket, according to an indictment.
The shortest sentence is that of Brandon Helm, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the death of Brandon Taylor on Jan. 26, 2010. He received 10 years in prison followed by 10 years probation. Jerome Sturgis received 18 years incarceration followed by five years probation in exchange for a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter for the July 5 death of Darnell Brown.
The time of year the homicide happened doesn’t seem to dictate how quickly the case was resolved. Samuel Steplight, for instance, went to trial in October for the Nov. 20 homicide of Norma Jean Mobley. His case ended in a guilty verdict on all charges but malice murder and a life sentence in prison.
But the first homicide of 2010 remains open. Corduray Keith Scott is still in jail awaiting trial on allegations that he shook his infant son to death.