Originally created 06/03/04

Lawyers learn of case's tie to judge



The judge who dismissed Angela Van Eeden's restraining order against Willie G. Allen six months before investigators charged him with murder in her death will preside over Mr. Allen's death penalty trial.

On Wednesday in Richmond County Superior Court, where Mr. Allen, 29, pleaded innocent to capital murder charges, Judge Neal W. Dickert disclosed his connection to the case to prosecutors and defense attorneys Michael Garrett and Willie Saunders.

Another judge had issued the temporary restraining order at Ms. Van Eeden's request after she alleged Mr. Allen physically abused her twice in May 2003. The case was assigned to Judge Dickert, and he learned July 18 that Mr. Allen had not been informed of the restraining order, the judge said Wednesday.

Judge Dickert said he remembers asking the Safe Homes attorney representing Ms. Van Eeden whether she wanted to extend the restraining order and postpone the hearing, or dismiss it. He remembers being told Ms. Van Eeden did not intend to pursue it, Judge Dickert said, but he could not remember whether Ms. Van Eeden was present.

"I am confident as of today that was the extent of my involvement in the case," the judge said.

A month after the restraining order was dismissed, Mr. Allen was arrested on domestic violence and criminal trespass charges in an incident involving Ms. Van Eeden.

Mr. Allen is accused of shooting Ms. Van Eeden, 28, and Ray A. Cobb, 33, to death in her Hephzibah home Dec. 11, and of kidnapping the two children he fathered with Ms. Van Eeden.

Investigators found the children unharmed at a relative's home, and Mr. Allen was arrested less than 24 hours later in Jacksonville, Fla.

On Wednesday, Judge Dickert set a deadline of two months for the defense team to file any pretrial motions on Mr. Allen's behalf. He also told Mr. Garrett and Mr. Saunders that if they believed it necessary, they should file a motion for his recusal as soon as possible.

Wednesday was Mr. Allen's first pretrial hearing and his arraignment.

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