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Prosecution rests in murder trial of Hephzibah man accused of killing Columbia County water treatment plant employee

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 7:06 PM
Last updated 10:43 PM
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The prosecution rested Wednesday in the trial of a Hephzibah man accused of fatally shooting a Columbia County water plant employee in April.

Thomas Eugene Bradford prepares to leave the courtroom during a lunch break on the third day of his trial for the murder of Raymond V. Lee, an employee of the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant on Stevens Creek Road.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Thomas Eugene Bradford prepares to leave the courtroom during a lunch break on the third day of his trial for the murder of Raymond V. Lee, an employee of the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant on Stevens Creek Road.

The defense of Thomas Eugene Bradford, 43, is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Authorities say Bradford, a driver for Thomson-based Hudsons Grassing Co. Inc., was trying to pick up a trailer loaded with sludge on April 1, when he and Lee argued over Bradford’s allegation that the trailer was overloaded.

Bradford called 911 after Lee, 38, was shot and waited at the scene until he was arrested.

Bradford told his version of the events through a taped interview with investigators that was played for the jury Wednesday.

In that interview, Bradford described himself as “a hotheaded person,” and told investigators he “had gotten into it” before with Lee about how his trailers had been loaded at the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant.

He said before the shooting that Lee had slapped him, knocking his prescription sunglasses off, and that he pulled the pistol he was carrying to keep from being hit again — but that he didn’t intend to shoot Lee.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done. I just didn’t want to get hit anymore,” Bradford said in the taped interview. “It just got way too fast out of control.”

Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus pointed out that during the interview, Bradford never mentioned that the shooting was an accident or in self-defense.

Though two witnesses who testified Tuesday were somewhat inconsistent about how many times they saw the two men struggle, they agree they saw Bradford shoot Lee.

A Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner confirmed that Lee died from internal bleeding after being shot in the left chest. The bullet hit his heart, pulmonary artery and lung.

A visual perception expert also testified that the witnesses would have needed better than 20/20 vision to see the small .380-caliber Ruger pistol from 137 yards away.

The defense will begin presenting evidence Thursday. Bradford’s attorney, Victor Hawk, said his client intends to testify in his own defense.

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper also issued a gag order Wednesday, ordering prosecutors, defense attorneys and bailiffs to not to speak to the media about court proceedings until the trial is over.

The order came after Fogus complained that Hawk gave an interview to a television station during a break in the proceedings.


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