A Baxley man who told police last year that two masked men had broken into his house, tied him up and killed his wife pleaded guilty this week to murder in her strangulation.
Jonathan Kyle Courson, 28, pleaded guilty before Chief Superior Court Judge E.M. Wilkes III to felony murder, making a false statement and tampering with evidence in the death of his wife, 28-year-old Amanda Nicole Courson, said Jackie Johnson, district attorney of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit.
Jurors were to have reported Monday for his trial on murder and the other charges.
Wilkes sentenced Courson to life with the possibility of parole on the murder change and two terms on probation, five years for making false statements and a year for evidence tampering.
Under the current guidelines, Courson will be eligible for parole in 30 years. He would begin serving the probation after his release.
Courson, a used car salesman, had originally reported to the Appling County Sheriff’s Office that two men wearing ski masks had broken into their home in the Oak Ridge subdivision, forced him to tie his wife up and that the men then tied him up. The men took her out of the room and then ransacked their home for two hours before killing his wife but leaving him and their young daughter unharmed, he told police.
About five days into an investigation by the Appling County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Sheriff Benny DeLoach said Courson’s story didn’t match evidence found in the home and that he had been charged in her death.
Courson testified Monday that he killed his wife after a marital dispute escalated.
“According to his statement, there was a struggle. He claimed that he took a gun from [his wife], hit her in the head and knocked her out,’’ Johnson said.
“He panicked, moved her into the laundry room, tied her up and suspended her by the neck’’ with a rope, Johnson said.
Although she was lying on the floor, her head and neck were suspended enough that she was strangled by the resulting pressure, Johnson said.
Investigators found Amanda Courson bound with duct tape and rope, Johnson said.
All of Amanda Courson’s injuries fit the findings of a GBI autopsy, she said.
Johnson described a very emotional scene in the courtroom in which Amanda Courson’s mother, Annette Smith, told Courson he had broken her heart.
“She said she had loved him ...that he would never find anyone who would love him as much as her daughter had,’’ Johnson said.
Courson apologized to his wife’s family, his family and to law enforcement who investigated the crime and asked for forgiveness, Johnson said.
Both families are highly regarded in Appling County. Amanda Courson knew a lot of people from her work in a hair salon while he knew a lot of people from his job, Johnson said.
The Courson’s child is three now and had been in the temporary custody of Kyle Courson’s brother, Rocky. He and Annette Smith have agreed on a custody agreement in which she will assume custody, but he will get liberal visitation rights so that the girl can have a continued relationship with both families, Johnson said.