Judge denies motion to prohibit media at trial

A judge denied a motion Wednesday to prohibit public and media access to an upcoming pretrial hearing for a Columbia County woman who is accused, along with her son, in the March beating death of her next-door neighbor.

Defense attorneys for Rebecca Bowers Sears, 41, and Sean Christopher Bowers, 20, requested that a Jackson-Denno hearing be closed, claiming information presented would be prejudicial to potential jurors.

In the Jackson-Denno hearing, a judge will determine if statements by Mrs. Sears were made voluntarily and if they should be suppressed as evidence in her trial.

Sears, of the 200 block of Hot Springs Drive, and Bowers, of the 4000 block of Briarwood Drive, are charged in the death of Sears' next-door neighbor, Laverne "Kay" Parsons.

On March 25, Parsons was found in her garage beaten to death with a bat and a claw hammer. Sears and Bowers were arrested a few days later. Both were indicted on murder, armed robbery and burglary charges in April.

Jacque Hawk, Bowers' attorney, requested the closing to reduce pre-trial publicity.

He claimed information in Sears' statements is false or misleading regarding Bowers.

"This (hearing) would taint the rest of the proceedings against him to such he cannot have a fair trial," Hawk said.

The information could lead to a need to change the venue of the trial to outside the county and possibly a retrial of the case, Hawk said.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said in her 14 years in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, only one trial required a change of venue and not due to pre-trial publicity, but because the defendant was well-known in a small community.

She said the request is premature because the decision to change the trial venue is one made during jury selection.

"We believe we can get a fair and impartial jury," Wright said.

A date for the hearing has not been set.

By law, Sears and Bowers will be tried separately because the district attorney plans to seek the death penalty.