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Suspect facing second murder trial

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Rick Reeves vividly remembers the day he learned that his colleague and close friend Jeffrey Labord had been shot to death.

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“Devastating; that’s the best word I can use,” Reeves said.

It was equally troubling to learn that the man accused in Labord’s death, Seth Rouzan, 26, was released on probation because of a hung jury. Now Rouzan is facing another charge of murder after a homicide last week on First Street.

Labord “was a real good friend of mine, and this guy walked,” said Carl Collins, another of Labord’s former co-workers at the Richmond County Department of Traf­fic Engineering. “Now he’s charged with taking somebody else’s life.”

Rouzan was arrested on charges of armed robbery and murder in the Aug. 21 shooting death of 64-year-old Joseph Williams Jr. A 15-year-old boy is also charged with murder in the case.

Richmond County sheriff’s investigators found Williams shot in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 400 block of First Street. He died at Medical College of Georgia Hospital about 6:30 p.m.

Attempts to reach the families of Rouzan and Williams were unsuccessful.

Six years ago, Labord was found dead by a newspaper carrier at Doublegate Court, a cul-de-sac off Walden Drive.

“Originally I thought he was drunk and swerved around him in order not to hit him,” the carrier, Joshua Paulsakos, said at Rouzan’s trial in December 2007. “As I pulled back around, my headlights pretty much settled on him where I could see him … and
realized he wasn’t breathing.”

Paulsakos drove to the Daniel Village sheriff’s substation to report the death.

Residents of Doublegate Court said they heard two shots and a car peeling out but could not see anything in the darkness.

Collins said he heard about the homicide while driving to work. When he arrived at the public works shop off Mike Padgett High­way, everyone was wondering why Labord was not at work. Labord was identified as the victim about 10 a.m.

“It was like a ball of fire just came through me,” Collins said. “We had just talked to him 12 hours prior.”

THE RICHMOND County Sheriff’s Office collected strong circumstantial evidence pointing to Rouzan. Several of his friends testified that he told them he had killed a man the night before. They also said that the morning after the homicide, Rouzan was driving Labord’s car, which was loaded with a TV, liquor bottles and other items stolen from Labord’s house. During his drive around the East Boun­dary area, he stopped at a friend’s house and posed for cellphone pictures with a .380-caliber pistol – the same caliber bullet that killed Labord.

A drop of Labord’s blood was found on a pair of shoes hidden under Rouzan’s bed.

Under oath, Rouzan adamantly denied having any role in Labord’s death. He said he was in bed sleeping all night, though there was no evidence to substantiate this claim.

“Are you aware of any reason why your best friend would come in here and say that you admitted to him that you had committed murder?” Assistant District Attorney Rex Myers asked.

“No, sir,” Rouzan said.

The jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. According to the trial transcript, Superior Court Judge Michael Annis talked with the jury after about three hours of deliberations.

“They said that they’ve been hung up since early in the deliberations and that everybody seems to be pretty much dug in,” Annis told Myers and Rouzan’s attorney, Willie Saunders.

CONTACTED LAST WEEK, three of the jurors described the mixed opinions in the jury room five years ago. Pau­line Cornelius said the blood on Rou­zan’s shoes made the case seem like a slam dunk. But while she was convinced of Rouzan’s guilt, “some of the (jurors) … wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

All three jurors said the witnesses who testified that Rouzan confessed had little to no credibility.

“The witnesses were a bunch of liars,” Mamie Wright said. “It seemed like they were trying to pin (the murder) on him.”

Wright said she tried to weigh the different possibilities but couldn’t get past her doubts in the case.

Dorothy Alderson was convinced of Rouzan’s guilt but found fault with the state’s presentation of the evidence.

“They didn’t quite prove anything,” she said.

Some of the jurors weren’t convinced that someone would be so stupid as to leave bloody shoes under his mattress, Alderson said.

On July 13, 2009, Rouzan pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter and burglary. He was sentenced to five years’ incarceration and 15 years of probation. With credit for the 2½ years he’d spent in jail, plus good behavior, his release was granted that day.

At the Department of Traf­fic Engineering, Labord’s presence is still sorely missed.

“We’ll never have a gentleman like him,” Reeves said.

Comments (10) Add comment
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Gage Creed
Gage Creed 09/02/12 - 09:48 pm
Thank you ladies and

Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the jury.......

Patty-P 09/03/12 - 12:13 am
Manslaughter and burglary

Manslaughter and burglary only gets 2.5 years?

cruiser93 09/03/12 - 02:18 am

Guaranteed ...that these "jurors" would have NOT felt the same way if it would have been their family that this animal killed

OpenCurtain 09/03/12 - 06:58 am
What is to blame

Was this a situation of a weak criminal case, poor prosecution, a slow retrial, or a sympathetic Jury that just could not, or would not convict? But such a short sentence is the judges fault, no one else.

I guess some jury members might have applied the logic he could have become a changed man.

Quoting: "Some of the jurors weren’t convinced that someone would be so stupid as to leave bloody shoes under his mattress, Alderson said."

To any future jury member. Please remember the most famous line from Forrest Gump. "Stupid is as stupid does."

rmwhitley 09/03/12 - 08:20 am

Boy can they twist the truth. Just like Ken: "one call, that's all".

itsanotherday1 09/03/12 - 09:37 am
"But such a short sentence is

"But such a short sentence is the judges fault, no one else."

Not necessarily; it may have been part of the plea agreement.

r 09/03/12 - 10:11 am
The blame here is on the judge and D A's office

He could have faced another jury if the judge and the DA thought they could convict. So yes I am sure the jurors feel guilt but apparently the county did not think it was worth trying again. Now another person is dead based on their choices.

itsanotherday1 09/03/12 - 11:14 am
If the article is accurate, I

If the article is accurate, I put it on ignorant/ biased jurors; just as in the OJ case.

TrulyWorried 09/03/12 - 11:43 am
Calling a criminal an animal

is STILL an insult to the animal world and always will be. Someone like this monster is pure filth and does not deserve to draw another breath on the taxpayers' money!

JRC2024 09/03/12 - 12:27 pm
Do the right thing this time

Do the right thing this time is all I will say.

JRC2024 09/03/12 - 12:31 pm
Posing with a .380. What a

Posing with a .380. What a fine picture for the mantel with photo shopped bars imposed.

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