Originally created 05/16/02

Death-penalty trial granted another delay



An Augusta woman facing a death-penalty trial in a nearly 7-year-old double homicide has received yet another postponement.

Defense attorneys for Katherine M. Conway, 30, sought a continuance of Monday's trial date in order to appeal an issue to the Georgia Supreme Court. This week, Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. granted the request.

"Our justice system sure is slow," said Mertis Edison, whose daughter Rhonda Warren was shot to death along with Timothy Hale on Nov. 4, 1995. "How they can keep delaying it and delaying it and delaying it I don't know."

Ms. Conway has pleaded innocent to murder and other charges lodged in a November 1998 indictment. Her trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in Richmond County Superior Court.

Ms. Conway and Keane A. Bates, 38, have maintained their innocence in the execution-style slayings that took place inside Mr. Hale's Eidson Drive home. Two other men arrested on the third anniversary of the slayings have pleaded guilty in the case.

Last fall, Mr. Bates' father, David A. Bates, pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation to commit murder, and Richard S. Breedlove pleaded guilty to murder, burglary and weapon charges. David Bates received a five-year prison sentence, and Mr. Breedlove received two consecutive life sentences plus 25 years.

The elder Mr. Bates told investigators he served as the middleman in murders-for-hire, putting Ms. Conway and his son in contact with the triggerman, Mr. Breedlove.

Mr. Hale, 23, and Ms. Warren, 28, were shot several times each. A witness came forward, and an indictment was issued three years later.

Another delay in the case hurts, Ms. Warren's mother said.

"You build yourself up for it (attending a trial) just to be let down. I just want to see justice done for child," Ms. Edison said.

Ms. Conway and Keane Bates have been held in jail without bond since their arrests in November 1998.

Defense attorneys contest the prosecution's intention to seek the death penalty because formal notice was not filed in the case until May 2000, a year and a half after the indictment was issued.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.