Bond denied for suspect in Hephzibah slaying

Joseph Leon-Guerrero, 33, is charged with murder.

Bond was denied Friday for one of three people charged in the death of a Hephzibah resident whose body was found last week.

Joseph Leon-Guerrero, 33, faces charges of murder, theft and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime in the Dec. 5 death of 48-year-old Michael Wickert on Keron Way.

Assistant District Attorney Titus Nichols told the judge in Richmond County Superior Court that sheriff’s investigators found text messages on Leon-Guerrero’s phone that detectives believe were made while Wickert was being beaten and stabbed to death.

The phone, which was found at the scene, contained text messages to Larry L. Norton Jr. telling Norton to come take the victim’s vehicle, the prosecutor said. Sheriff’s officers found Wickert’s 1987 Chev­rolet Cama­ro Z-28 on Tuesday; they had searched for the vehicle because investigators believe it could provide crucial evidence.

Norton, 31, and Lisa Blair, 41, also face a charge of murder in Wickert’s death.

The prosecutor said Friday that Blair told investigators she woke up about 5:30 a.m. Dec. 5 and found Leon-Guerrero holding a sledge hammer and standing over Wickert’s body. She said she helped move the body into the bathtub, Nichols said.

Wickert died of blunt force trauma and stabbing, according to earlier reports from the sheriff’s office.

In asking for bond, Leon-Guerrero’s defense attorney, Kelli Spencer, of the public defender’s office, said Friday that he has a valid claim of self-defense.

Leon-Guerrero is a divorced father of five who earned his GED at Augusta Technical College, Spencer said.

The prosecutor said Leon-Guerrero’s criminal history included theft in 2011, disorderly conduct this year and a burglary conviction in 2007 in Jenkins County.

Blair and Norton also remain in jail pending possible indictment and trial.

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