Originally created 01/24/06

Jury selection begins



The ponderous process of qualifying jurors began Monday in the death-penalty trial of an Augusta man accused of killing two people.

Ninety-five potential jurors reported for duty at Richmond County Superior Court. They answered broad questions and learned the details of the case facing Willie G. Allen.

Mr. Allen, 30, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, burglary and weapon violations in the Dec. 11, 2003, shooting deaths of Angela van Eeden, 28, and Ray Anthony Cobb, 33.

On Monday afternoon, the attorneys and judge began individual questioning of jurors to determine who will be qualified to sit for final jury selection. To qualify, each must be willing to consider three possible punishments if Mr. Allen is convicted of murder - life in prison with or without the possibility of parole, or death.

In response to the questions posed to the jury pool as a group, it appeared many of the potential jurors know defense attorneys Michael C. Garrett and Willie Saunders and prosecutors Danny Craig and Ashley Wright.

Although no one said he knew Mr. Allen, a number of potential jurors know his uncle, Richmond County school Superintendent Charles Larke, because they work for the school system. At least two of the potential jurors have had homicides in their families.

If questioning of potential jurors continues as planned, jury selection should take place Thursday.

Ms. van Eeden and Mr. Cobb were found shot to death in her Hephzibah home in December 2003. Her two small children were missing, but officers later found them safe at a relative's home.

Mr. Allen and Ms. van Eeden had dated, and he had fathered her two children. According to the investigators, however, the relationship had ended and Ms. van Eeden accused Mr. Allen of abusive and violent behavior in the months before her death.

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