Statements OK'd for trial

They weren't supposed to be shot, Lacy J. Barnard said of two men she allegedly set up to be robbed.

The plan her alleged accomplices, Ronald E. Banks and Antonio Jones, discussed with her focused on robbery. Mr. Jones took her mother's shotgun because he wanted to scare the victims and defend himself if they had guns, Ms. Barnard told Investigator Steve Fanning the night after 23-year-old Eladio Gonzalez was shot to death and Jose Mochica was nearly killed.

After hearing from two of the detectives who investigated the March 27, 2007, incident and listening to recordings of Ms. Barnard's statements, Richmond County Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis ruled the statements as admissible Tuesday for her trial.

Ms. Barnard, 18, and Mr. Jones, 28, face separate death penalty trials. Both have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Banks died of cancer at the age of 55 while awaiting trial.

Mr. Mochica survived multiple blasts from a 12-gauge shotgun and managed to crawl out of the woods surrounding the Brickyard Pond area. Investigators later found Mr. Gonzalez dead.

A friend of Ms. Barnard gave officers the break in the case. Ms. Barnard was the first to be arrested. Lt. Scott Peebles testified Tuesday that he found her at home, sitting in her car with a packed bag on the back seat.

As he put her in handcuffs, Ms. Barnard said, " 'I didn't know they were going to shoot them,' " he said.

Ms. Barnard later told Investigator Fanning that she had known Mr. Jones for several years and recently met Mr. Banks through him. The trio had been hanging out for a few weeks. Throughout that time the men talked a lot about robbery, she said.

"Ronnie, the old man, said, 'If you're going to rob them, then you have to kill them,' " Ms. Barnard said.

In the days before the crime, Ms. Barnard obtained a description of a Mexican man suspected of carrying a lot of cash. She and her alleged accomplices reportedly picked the location for the robbery. When she couldn't find the intended victim, she told the investigator, she picked up a friend, Mr. Gonzales, and Mr. Mochica and drove them to the robbery site.

At the pond, Mr. Jones walked up to the victims and shot them with the 12-gauge, Ms. Barnard said. He is accused of shooting them four or five times. They got $58, two sets of keys and two cell phones -- one of which Mr. Jones threw away because it was covered in blood, Ms. Barnard said.

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

What's Next:

At a Jan. 29 hearing, the judge will determine whether a statement made by Antonio Jones will be admissible at his capital murder trial. His trial is set for July 13. A trial date for Lacy Barnard will be set after that.