Originally created 09/21/04

Informant sues victims' family to get reward



A woman who went to police 27 months after Fred and Yong-Suk Walker were murdered is suing the victims' children.

Toi Jackson says in her Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit that the Walker children have refused to pay the $15,000 reward offered by the family.

Vivian Walker Price, Donald Walker and David Walker filed their combined answer to the lawsuit this month, denying all of Ms. Jackson's allegations.

"When this lawsuit was filed, it was the first they ever heard from her," said attorney Barry Fleming, who is representing the Walkers' children.

"It was quite a shock for them," especially after all they have been through, he added.

The parents were shot to death in their Evans home the night of Feb. 2, 1998. Their killers - Jimmy Lee Rhodes and his nephew Dag Rhodes, who have been sentenced to life in prison without parole - stole more than $34,000 that the Walkers had earned earlier at a Kissingbower Road liquor store.

The family offered $15,000 in July 1998 for information leading to convictions, according to Augusta Chronicle reports.

In May 2000, Ms. Jackson contacted Columbia County sheriff 's investigators after her boyfriend, David Easterling, moved out of her home. She told detectives that Mr. Easterling had told her that he drove the Rhodeses to Columbia County "to do the 'lick' at the Walkers' residence," according to a search warrant application.

That Ms. Jackson let so much time pass before going to the authorities will factor into the defense of the lawsuit, the Walkers' attorney said.

That she didn't come forward at once, especially when one of the sons was held in jail for two days as a possible suspect, "and this lady knew all along he didn't do it - it's pain on top of pain for them," Mr. Fleming said.

Mr. Easterling pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the Walkers' killings and to kidnapping in the Richmond County abduction of Sam's Club manager David Holt on June 21, 1998. He is serving two consecutive life sentences in prison.

The lawsuit alleges "the defendants failed and refused to honor their offer of reward."

Because they have been stubborn and litigious, they should have to pay Ms. Jackson's attorneys fees on top of the $15,000, according to the suit.

Ms. Jackson's attorney, David Bell, said Monday that if it hadn't been for Ms. Jackson, the Walker children might never had seen the killers brought to justice.

Although suing victims might appear ugly, "any time a reward is offered, it's going to be in a case where something bad happened," Mr. Bell said.

A reward is intended to entice someone to come forward, and if it is known a reward hasn't been paid in the past, a person with information might not come forward in the future, Mr. Bell said.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said Ms. Jackson received an unspecified amount from the sheriff's office after the last defendant, Dag Rhodes, was convicted. That reward money was separate from the family's, Capt. Morris said.

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