An Augusta man accused of repeatedly running over his ex-girlfriend in December with her own Ford Explorer pleaded not guilty to capital murder and robbery charges Friday in Burke County.
Garry Deyon Johnson, 34, also faces kidnapping and theft charges in Richmond County, also in connection with the death of 31-year-old Irene Shields, of Hephzibah, a mother of three whose mangled body was found in Burke County three days after Christmas last year.
Ms. Shields disappeared Dec. 27. Investigators said she had been in hiding since breaking off a relationship with Mr. Johnson. They believe she was kidnapped from her Hephzibah home, bound and gagged, then run over.
Friday's court appearance was the first pretrial hearing for Mr. Johnson. One of his attorneys told Superior Court Judge William M. Fleming Jr. that the defense would request a preliminary hearing although Mr. Johnson has already been indicted. Preliminary hearings usually occur before an indictment, and one of their purposes is to determine whether enough evidence exists to hold a defendant until a grand jury can consider indictment.
"That's when the defense is first allowed to call witnesses, to cross examine them and to secure testimony under oath," attorney Jack Boone said after the hearing.
District Attorney Danny Craig said no preliminary hearing was held because a grand jury session already was scheduled.
"Before a preliminary hearing could be scheduled, we had a grand jury readily available, and the evidence was significantly assembled," he said. "The standard and burden of proof are the same for a grand jury or a preliminary hearing."
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