The trial began Tuesday for one of two men accused of killing a 24-year-old mother whose burning body was found two days after she disappeared.
Cardale D. Gibbons, 24, pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to all charges he faces in the 2004 death of Shanequa Carpenter.
Ms. Carpenter left for a quick run to the grocery store for diapers and food, some items needed for dinner on June 4, 2004, her grandmother testified.
She left with her two youngest - Isaiah, then 2, and Alyssia who was a few weeks shy of her first birthday.
About seven hours later, two motorists on Meadowbrook Drive had to swerve to keep from running over Isaiah. Richmond County Sheriff Deputy Adrian Fredericks was on foot near Meadowbrook when he found Alyssia alongside the road.
"I wouldn't have seen her, wouldn't have noticed her, if she hadn't rustled (in the pine straw)," Deputy Fredericks testified.
Extra officers were called in to help search the area and knock on doors, Investigator Fanning testified. He contacted an agency that was capable of phoning recorded messages to every house within a mile of where the unidentified children were found, and flyers were made with the children's photographs, he testified.
Just before 8 a.m., they learned who the children were. It wouldn't be until the next day that their mother's body would be found burning just yards from Pebble Creek Road.
James Lewis, Hephzibah police chief, testified one of his Pebble Creek Road neighbors came to his house the afternoon of June 6, 2004. He thought children had started a fire in the woods because they had done it before, Chief Lewis said.
He called the fire department and went to the smoldering area to await the fire trucks with his neighbor, Chief Lewis testified. That's when they saw a body lying on its back.
Mr. Gibbons and Ernest Bussey, 23, were arrested on murder and other charges in the death of Ms. Carpenter. Mr. Bussey pleaded guilty last February. He is serving a life sentence for murder.
Mr. Bussey will testify against Mr. Gibbons, District Attorney Danny Craig told the jury in his opening statement.
Defense attorney Peter Johnson told the jury in his opening statement that the man who killed Ms. Carpenter is Mr. Bussey.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.