Grandmother defends boy accused in Burke County killing

Child's unstable home life a factor, she says
Archer

WAYNESBORO, Ga. — The boy Robin Archer remembers is a happy child, a fifth-grade student she never had a problem with when he was living with her.

Now, her grandchild is being charged with murder by the state of Georgia.

Late last month, Burke County investigators responded to a home in Midville and found the body of 31-year-old Jennifer Albright. She had been shot to death during what police originally thought was a home invasion, but later determined to be her boyfriend’s 10-year-old son with a shotgun.

“There were guns all over the house,” Archer said.

She said the boy had been having trouble with Albright ever since he was sent to live with her and his father, because his mother, Kim McCollum, was found with drugs.

When his parents were still together, their home was violent, Archer said: “All his mother and father did was fight.”

The boy was sent back and forth between them until he was taken away because of the drugs. After that, Archer said he was not allowed to contact her or McCollum, who live together.

“He used to sneak away and call me,” she said. “He would whisper into the phone so (Albright) wouldn’t hear.”

Once, she overheard Albright curse and yell at him when she found him on the phone.

“She was awful to him. He would tell me, ‘Nanna, I just want to leave,’ ” Archer said.

The fifth-grader tried to get out of the living situation many times, Archer said. He even accused his father of molesting him once, just to try to get back to Archer and Mc­Col­lum’s home. But when it came down to pressing charges, Archer said, he could not go against his father.

The boy’s mother was so worried about the situation that she contacted the Division of Family and Children Services several times but was ignored, Archer said.

Archer concedes that her grandson should face punishment. She said she understands there are consequences for Albright’s death.

“Of course I’m prejudiced,” she said. “I’m the boy’s grandma. I know he pulled the trigger, but someone else is also responsible.”

She is worried people will think he is an evil child.

“He’s not one of those kids out killing animals and then it progressed. He didn’t want to kill her, he just wanted to hurt her, like she was hurting him,” she said.

The boy denied the allegations in his arraignment at Burke County Juvenile Court, and the next step will be a status update hearing at the end of February. His trial could start in April.

His lawyer, Pete Theodocion, said they will try to have the child’s statement thrown out because of his age. Even though there was a guardian present when he gave his account, Theodocion said he will argue a 10-year-old cannot understand his constitutional rights.

“I know a life is gone,” Archer said. “But we need to take care of the one that’s left.”

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