Originally created 02/26/03

Five people face charges in slaying



Richmond County authorities announced murder charges Tuesday against five people linked to this week's robbery-motivated slaying of a Hephzibah man, including a woman who was arrested Tuesday morning.

Four of those charged were already in jail on charges related to Monday's slaying of 27-year-old Willie Rhodes. A sixth person is being sought, but sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry declined to identify that suspect.

Candice Leigh Peel, 39, of the 1400 block of Hephzibah-Keysville Road, Hephzibah, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with murder and armed robbery. Murder charges were added Tuesday for three suspects in custody: Charles Thompson McMillian, 44; Kindra Denise Mathis, 20; and Valerie Ann Leecongdon, 29.

The shooting suspect, 43-year-old Michael Smith, was charged Monday with malice murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm.

Police say the killing appears drug related and the result of a fight that broke out at the victim's home on Bohler Avenue early Monday.

According to sheriff's Lt. Jack Francisco, some of the suspects had gone to the house to rob Mr. Rhodes. During the robbery, a fight broke out between Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Smith, and Mr. Rhodes was shot in the head, the lieutenant said.

Police declined to discuss what role they believe the other suspects played in the slaying.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.