Originally created 04/28/01

Judge denies ex-Sam's Club worker bond



A judge denied bond Friday for one of the eight defendants in a racketeering case that includes the robbery and abduction of Sam's Club manager David Holt.

Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson told Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. that, although Laverne Ellis is not charged in connection with the June 21, 1998, robbery that ended in Mr. Holt's slaying in South Carolina, investigators suspect Ms. Ellis gave Ronald Coleman Jr. and Carlston W. Coleman Jr. inside information about the local Sam's Club operations.

Early this month, a Richmond County grand jury indicted both Colemans, who are not related, Ms. Ellis, Kendric Dudley; Ronnie B. Overton Jr.; Harold L. Jarman; Charles D. Winters; and a man only known by the alias John Lamar Travis, accusing each of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.

The indictment also accuses the Colemans of kidnapping, burglary, armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. The RICO count accuses them and the others of playing various parts in a long-running criminal conspiracy to commit a series of crimes.

Ms. Ellis, the prosecutor said Friday in Richmond County Superior Court, is specifically accused of giving the Colemans Sams Club membership numbers so they could come into the facility and pass false checks. Ms. Ellis worked at the private retail chain from May 1997 through October 1998.

Investigators also suspect Ms. Ellis told the Colemans about the security cameras, the location of tapes, and the store's hours, Ms. Johnson said. "There is only one night during the week when there are not people in the store 24 hours a day," she said.

Police say Mr. Holt was accosted not long after locking up Sam's Club on June 21, 1998. He was forced back into the store, where the safe was emptied of cash. Mr. Holt, 45, was killed when locked in the trunk of his car, which was torched just across the Savannah River in South Carolina.

Ms. Ellis' attorney asked Judge Brown to consider the fact she is only accused of theft.

Judge Brown denied bond, based on the seriousness of the criminal case and the continued investigation into what happened.

Also on Friday, Mr. Dudley's attorney, Charles Lyons, was granted permission to withdraw as Mr. Dudley's court-appointed lawyer. Mr. Lyons explained he learned this week that he had previously represented a prosecution witness in an unrelated criminal matter.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.