Suspect said he injured toddler

The 19-year-old Augusta fugitive suspected of killing city symphony cellist David Reader admitted in late 2001 that he was responsible for the injuries that killed an 18-month-old toddler.

In juvenile court records obtained by The Augusta Chronicle on Sunday morning, a partial picture of Anthony G. Joe Jr. emerges. The records begin in December 2001, when Taj'sha Sierra Adams was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries, and Mr. Joe was sent to the Regional Youth Detention Center.

Mr. Joe, then 12, was initially accused of aggravated assault. The charge was upgraded to murder after the baby died. Brain injuries were caused by violent shaking, according to the juvenile court records. Blows broke a rib, lacerated her liver and bruised her spleen and kidneys.

The juvenile court case was postponed once because the sixth-grader was undergoing a mental evaluation and a second time because officials were awaiting Taj'sha's autopsy results.

Mr. Joe didn't stay in custody long. On May 13, 2002, he admitted to committing involuntary manslaughter. Then-Richmond County Juvenile Court Judge Herbert Kernaghan Jr. determined that Mr. Joe was a deprived child and transferred custody to the Department of Family and Children Services. He was sent to live with his paternal grandmother in Hephzibah.

The next year Mr. Joe was still under DFCS care but living in DeKalb County. He was charged with robbery in 2003 and spent some time in detention, Richmond County Juvenile Court Judge H. William Sams said Friday.

By November 2005, Mr. Joe was again living with his grandparents in south Augusta. According to his juvenile court records, that was when he and two other teenagers attacked a boy walking down Conniston Drive.

The victim told sheriff's deputies that he was hit in the back of the head with a brick. After he fell to the ground, Mr. Joe and the other two kicked and punched him in the head and body. According to the juvenile court records, the victim suffered cuts and bruises, broken ribs and a concussion.

Although Mr. Joe was committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice, if he was held in custody, it wasn't for long. On Jan. 10, 2006, less than two months after the attack on Conniston Drive, Mr. Joe and several other youths broke into a Gebhart Court home. According to the juvenile court records, Mr. Joe was detained in the Regional Youth Detention Center the next day. The records do not indicate how long he was detained.

Earlier this month, Richmond County sheriff's detectives obtained warrants against Mr. Joe and a 16-year-old boy. Both are accused of murder in the May 11 shooting death of Mr. Reader. According to witnesses, Mr. Reader was beaten and then shot after getting into an argument when he was cheated in a deal to buy marijuana.

At least two witnesses identified Mr. Joe as the one who shot Mr. Reader.

Sheriff's investigators are still searching for Mr. Joe.

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

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