Originally created 09/07/00

Absences delay homicide case



As the fifth anniversary of a double homicide approaches, the arraignment of two of the suspects stalled again Wednesday.

What was supposed to be the second pretrial hearing in the death penalty trial process for Keane A. Bates, 37; Katherine Conway, 28; and Richard Breedlove, 48, in Richmond County Superior Court was canceled Wednesday when two attorneys didn't show up.

Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. halted the hearing on learning that a Florida attorney, Richard Whitson, who had specifically requested permission to serve as co-counsel for Mr. Breedlove even though he is not licensed to practice law in Georgia, was not present Wednesday. In addition, an Atlanta attorney hired two years ago to represent Mr. Bates, Tony Axam, failed to appear for Wednesday's hearing and at the first hearing in June.

"Keane Alan Bates effectively has no second chair at this time," said Richard Allen, Mr. Bates' other attorney.

Under new rules set for the Georgia Supreme Court this year, every person facing a potential death sentence must have two defense attorneys who have experience in capital murder trials and specialized training.

In May, District Attorney Danny Craig filed notice that he intended to seek the death penalty if Mr. Bates, Ms. Conway or Mr. Breedlove are convicted of murder in the Nov. 4, 1995, slayings of 23-year-old Timothy Hale and 28-year-old Rhonda Warren.

Wednesday's delay was yet another setback in the double homicide case. Three years passed before sheriff's investigators gathered enough evidence to convince a grand jury to issue an indictment in the case.

Mr. Bates, Ms. Conway and Mr. Breedlove are charged with felony murder, malice murder, burglary and weapon violations.

In addition Mr. Bates' father, David A. Bates, 58, was indicted Nov. 4, 1998. The four are accused of conspiring to kill Mr. Hale and Ms. Warren. Both were shot to death in the small mobile home in the 2900 block of Eidson Drive where Mr. Hale lived.

Investigators contend David Bates, who faces an additional charge of criminal solicitation, hired Mr. Breedlove to kill Mr. Hale at his home, at Ms. Conway's request. Ms. Conway and Mr. Hale had dated until Mr. Hale broke off the relationship and later became involved with Ms. Warren, according to the victims' family members.

David Bates will plead guilty, his attorney has announced. He is the only suspect not facing a potential death sentence.

His son, Ms. Conway and Mr. Breedlove have pleaded not guilty at their arraignments, but Keane Bates and Ms. Conway have not formerly entered a plea under the death-penalty trial process.

Judge Brown said Wednesday that he would contact both absent attorneys and request an explanation. He asked Mr. Craig to rescheduled the hearing at the earliest possible date.

All four suspects have been held in jail without bond since their arrests nearly two years ago. Mr. Breedlove was in a Florida jail when the Richmond County indictment was issued and he was not brought to Augusta until November. Mr. Breedlove faces unrelated charges of assault and child molestation in Volusia County, Fla.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.