Benton Sentenced 20 Years, Fined $100k for Transporting Drugs

A 38-year-old Snellville woman caught transporting approximately 20 lbs of marijuana along I-20 last February was sentenced to 20 years and fined $100,000 dollars following her conviction last week, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Chief Superior Court Judge Robert J. James imposed Frankie Leshawn Benton’s 20-year sentence after the defendant was found guilty of Trafficking in Marijuana in a bench trial. Benton is required to serve the first seven years of her 20-year sentence in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Kegley pointed out at trial that the drug discovery was made during a traffic stop on February 1, 2012, near the Post Road exit. Felony Interception and Narcotic Detection Unit (FIND) Officer Adam Haney told the court he initially pulled the defendant over for following too closely. During Haney’s initial conversation with Benton, the officer smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle. The officer’s suspicions were confirmed moments later when a police canine alerted to drugs being present in the defendant’s Dodge SUV.

Instead of cooperating with the search, Benton locked all four doors and stuffed the key inside her shirt. Once all the doors were unlocked with a slim jim, officers found a cardboard box containing the marijuana. Benton admitted afterwards she was being paid $500 to transport the large amount of marijuana from DeKalb County to Villa Rica.

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Douglas County District Attorney’s Office Presents 20 Cases to Grand Jury

Prosecutors from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office presented 20 cases to the Grand Jury Friday, according to District Attorney David McDade.

The following cases were presented to the Grand Jury on Friday, November 2nd:

- Ortagous Rolando Cochran, on charges of Aggravated Assault, Battery (Family Violence Act) and Cruelty to Children

- Jakob Alexander Dangler, on charges of Aggravated Battery

- Darnell Leepuckett Brown, on charges of Burglary

- James Russell Luke, on charges of Child Molestation

- Tatum Ellison, Britany Riels and Christmas Ellison, on charges of Aggravated Assault and Cruelty to Children

- James Calvin Yount, on charges of Aggravated Assault

- Thomas Jeffery Bowen, on charges of Terroristic Threats

- Labrittania Rasheka Robinson, on charges of Armed Robbery and Identity Fraud

- Anthony Tyrone Gresham aka Dejerald Elder, on charges of Aggravated Assault and  Armed Robbery

- Derrick Adams Walden and Traven Jaquelle James, on charges of Armed Robbery

- Carey Edwin Sutton, on charges of Failure to Register as a Sex Offender

- Richard Patrick Morse and Richard Warner Williams, on charges of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act, Forgery and Possession of Drug Related Objects

- Robert Shundrell Muldrow, on charges of Battery (Family Violence Act)

- August William Pastor aka Augusta Pastor, on charges of Aggravated Battery

- Tabyrion Deshawn Smith, on charges of Robbery by Sudden Snatching and Theft by Receiving Stolen Property

- Michael Jermaine Thompson, on charges of Riot in a Penal Institution

- Jason David Franklin, on charges of Cruelty to Children—1st Degree, Battery (Family Violence Act) and Battery

- Lorenzia Andrea McCroskey, on charges of Theft by Deception

- Donnie Jerry Crawford, on charges of Aggravated Stalking and Terroristic Threats

- Bryheem Jameel Wright, on charges of Theft by Shoplifting

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Repeat Offender Sentenced 30 Years for Multiple Robberies

A nine-time convicted felon caught after robbing a local grocery store driving a stolen vehicle was sentenced to 30 years following his conviction this week, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Sean Anthony Badilishamwalimu, 44, of Atlanta received a 30-year sentence earlier this week from Chief Superior Court Judge Robert J. James after entering a guilty plea to charges of Robbery by Force, Robbery by Sudden Snatching, Theft by Shoplifting, Theft by Taking and Battery. The defendant was sentenced as a repeat offender, which means the first 12 years of his 30-year term will be served behind bars. He was also banished from Douglas and Cobb County.

“This is really simple to me. Looking at his record makes it real clear he just doesn’t get it, and the only way to stop him is to lock him up and throw away the key,” said McDade. “His previous cases were in other jurisdictions and maybe if we had gotten a hold on him earlier, he might have seen the light. Now, whatever he sees will be from behind bars for a long, long time.”

According to Assistant District Attorney Steve Knittel, Badilishamwalimu’s criminal history stretches over four decades, the first occurring in 1987. A majority of his convictions are related to theft and drugs. Badilishamwalimu’s latest conviction occurred earlier this year on April 17th, when a store manager at the Austell Food Depot saw the defendant making his way towards the exit with stolen grooming items in a black plastic bag. The manager tried to stop Badilishamwalimu, but was met with a punch that knocked him to the ground.

Trying to find a way to escape, the defendant ran into the parking lot and then fled in a stolen car. He was apprehended several hours later by Cobb County officials. Inside the vehicle, authorities found grooming items that matched the stolen merchandise from Food Depot. Two witnesses inside the grocery store also identified Badilishamwalimu out of a photo lineup as the robber.

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Swearing-in Ceremony Transitions Vaughan, Todd and Purcell to Attorneys

A packed courtroom was all smiles Thursday morning, as three law school graduates became licensed attorneys in a swearing-in ceremony conducted by Douglas County Chief Superior Court Judge Robert J. James.

Anna Vaughan, Lara Todd and James Purcell each took their turn coming in front of Judge James for their swearing-in. Accompanied by friends and family, and more looking on from the gallery, the new lawyers lifted their right hand and recited the Oath of Admission before Judge James issued an order allowing them to practice law in Georgia.

All three lawyers passed the Georgia State Bar Examination earlier this year after graduating from their respective law schools. Each newly-admitted attorney also received a Certification of Fitness to Practice Law by the Board to Determine Fitness of Bar Applicants, which is a prerequisite to filing an application to sit for the Bar examination.

While all three gathered in the same courtroom today, each will take a different path for their career. Vaughan, a graduate of John Marshall Law School, is staying in the county to practice law as a prosecutor for the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. Todd will be going back to her alma mater, Mercer Law School, for an additional year of federal criminal training before seeking a career as a prosecutor. Starting in July, Purcell, a graduate of University of Georgia Law School, will begin his service in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).

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Heirling Given Life in Prison for 2002 Armed Robbery

A 42-year-old North Carolina man will spend his life in prison after being sentenced for robbing a local restaurant manager at gunpoint outside his home in 2002, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Christopher Britt Heirling was sentenced to life in prison, plus five consecutive years, after Chief Superior Court Judge Robert J. James agreed with the State’s sentencing recommendation for the defendant’s armed robbery of Scott Hudson, who runs local BBQ landmark Hudson’s Hickory House with his father, Buford. Heirling received the punishment after entering a guilty plea to charges of Armed Robbery and Possession of a Firearm during a Commission of a Felony.

Before relaying his recommendation to the court, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Leonard laid out the facts surrounding the armed robbery case, which occurred on April 16, 2002. The robbery, Leonard said, occurred immediately after Hudson arrived home from closing up Hudson’s BBQ for the night.

“As he got out of his vehicle in the driveway at his residence, a white male came up behind him and hit him on the back of the head,” said Leonard. “[Scott] then turned around and was confronted with a silver semi-automatic handgun, which was pointed at his face.”

Heirling continued to focus the barrel of the gun on Scott Hudson’s face, demanding to know the location of a red toolbox the Hudson’s had regularly used to carry money back-and-forth from their restaurant overnight. Once Hudson’s answers led Heirling to the location of the toolbox inside his truck, the defendant ordered Hudson to the ground until he escaped into the night with over $1800 in hand.

Hudson immediately got up and went inside his house to call 911. While combing through the crime scene, authorities found saliva and a used cigar and cigarette. The three pieces of evidence were sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Crime Lab for DNA testing, but the DNA did not match anyone in the criminal system database at the time.

The journey for justice continued eight years without a suspect. All of that changed in December 2010, when the DNA evidence from the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) matched Heirling, a federal prisoner who was serving 12 ½ years in custody for bank robberies in Arizona and Alabama.

Heirling reiterated his family member’s pleas for leniency and forgiveness when it was his turn to address the court.

Scott Hudson, standing beside his father and District Attorney McDade in court, spoke on how the armed robbery still affects his daily life.

“I’m glad he got caught and I’m glad he’s doing better,” said Hudson, who picked the defendant out of a photo lineup that authorities generated after the December 2010 DNA match. “At that particular time, he wasn’t near as scared as I was. My wife and my daughter were in the house. I didn’t know what was going on. Before I know it, I had a gun to my head. Again, he wasn’t as scared as I was. When I come home at night, my daughter still waits up for me, she remembers…she knows what happened. It’s not just a statement, I do think about it and so does my daughter. I’m glad he is doing better, but I’m also glad he did not kill anybody.”

District Attorney McDade also addressed the court, saying the defendant’s actions have caused Hudson to continually look over his shoulder and worry about his family.

“Scott can never pull up into a driveway for as long as he lives without worrying not about Scott, but worry about his daughter, worrying about his family that was at the house,” said McDade. “Scott cannot pull in a driveway without waiting to see if someone else is going to be waiting on him in the dark and put a gun to the back of his head. Scott’s life changed because of what this man did…I hope Mr. Heirling has learned from his stay in prison. I believe he is sincere in what he reports to this court. But I don’t buy his story that he doesn’t know how he got to Scott Hudson’s house that night. I don’t buy that he doesn’t know who gave him the inside information…It was an inside job. Somebody had to tell this man where Scott Hudson lived, the time he would be coming home and that he had a toolbox which had cash proceeds in it. So when you sentence [the defendant], you still don’t relieve Scott of the worry he has for his daughter and his family…Scott Hudson is before this court to get justice. That’s what we are asking for.”

After letting both sides speak, Judge James ended the 40-minute hearing with his final ruling.

“Taking into consideration the nature of the crime and the dangers of the crime– going to a man’s house, wait in the dark, hit him and put a gun to his head—I think that’s the reason the legislature made life the maximum punishment for armed robbery,” said James from the bench. “That’s what I impose, followed by five years.”

The bank robberies, according to Leonard, occurred before and after the Douglas County armed robbery transpired. The first robbery happened at an Alabama bank four days before the Hudson robbery, while the final three bank robberies occurred in Arizona on April 29th, May 8th and May 20th. Shortly after being apprehended in Arizona, the defendant cited the armed robberies as a way of supporting his drug problem.

Since the DNA match in December 2010, investigators learned Heirling lived in the Bremen area with his longtime girlfriend around the time he committed the armed robbery here. Documents show he was arrested in Bremen in August 2001, eight months before the armed robbery. In an interview, the defendant admitted to using the silver semi-automatic in every robbery.

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Murder Conviction Upheld in Violent Home Invasion Killing

A unanimous Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the 2005 murder, kidnapping and burglary convictions of Justin Brown, one of four men involved in a violent home invasion robbery and murder resulting in the death of 18-year-old J.R. Morrow, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

According to McDade, the evidence at trial showed that J.R Morrow lived with his father, James Morrow, and Judy McClure at a home in Douglas County, Georgia. Brown, a friend of J.R.’s, had been staying at the Morrow residence for several days, but was asked to leave on the morning of October 15, 2002. Brown knew that there was a large amount of money in a safe in the Morrow house, having seen the safe’s contents when Mr. Morrow took money out to give to J.R. After he was asked to leave the Morrow house, Brown told Giovanni Little and Kevin Peoples that he wanted to rob J.R. Morrow.  They devised a plan for Brown to commit the robbery while Little and Peoples distracted the occupants of the house.

That night, Mr. Morrow, Ms. McClure, and J.R. Morrow were all at home. Brown called the house from a nearby gas station pay phone and asked if J.R. was there. Mr. Morrow told the caller that his son was not at home, even though J.R. was actually asleep in his basement bedroom. A few minutes later, Brown, Little, and Kevin Peoples were driven to the Morrow house by Kevin’s younger brother, Byron. Brown, Little and Kevin Peoples exited the car and went to the house while Byron waited nearby in the car.  Hearing noises on the front porch, Mr. Morrow went to the door. As he opened the door, one of the men reached inside and shot him in the shoulder. The men then rushed the door, knocking Mr. Morrow down. Once inside, one of the intruders shot Mr. Morrow in the leg and shot at Ms. McClure as she attempted to exit her bedroom upon hearing the commotion. Ms. McClure, who was not hit, was ordered by the gunman back into her bedroom and Mr. Morrow was moved at gunpoint to a back bathroom. Both Mr. Morrow and Ms. McClure identified Little as the man who shot at them and forced them into their respective rooms. While Little guarded the bedroom and bathroom doors, others went downstairs to the basement level where J.R. Morrow lived. Trapped in the bathroom, Mr. Morrow heard one of the intruders say, “I found him.  I found him.” He also heard a gunshot that seemed to come from the basement. After hearing the intruders run out of the house, Mr. Morrow and Ms. McClure went to the basement where they found J.R. with a gunshot wound to the chest. J.R. died at the scene shortly thereafter.

The invaders fled the Morrow residence in the car driven by Byron. Later that night, Brown called his girlfriend, told her that two men had been shot, and asked her to lie about his whereabouts. Brown later confessed to police that he called the victims’ home that night and that he knew Little and Kevin Peoples were going to beat up and rob J.R. Morrow. Brown also confessed to police that he had been at the Morrow home that night.

A search warrant issued for the Peoples’ house led to the discovery of a .25 Colt pistol, consistent with the bullets used in the crimes. Additionally, several witnesses testified that in the days leading up to the home invasion Brown had talked to them about wanting to obtain a gun to make easy money robbing someone.

“Without any doubt this was one of the most violent and horrific cases I have ever prosecuted,” said McDade. “On behalf of the victims in this case I am thankful that the Supreme Court ruling puts the final nails in the coffin for these thugs who all deserve to die in prison for their crimes.”

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Butler Sentenced 15 Years in Prison for Winston Burglaries

A 25-year-old Carroll County man who stole over $14,000 worth of items from several homes in the Winston area last spring received a 30-year sentence on Monday, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Christopher Charles Butler will serve the first 15 years of his sentence in prison. Superior Court Judge David T. Emerson accepted the State’s recommendation after Butler entered a guilty plea to three counts of Burglary and two counts of Attempted Burglary. The ruling also requires the defendant to pay $14,433.17 in restitution.

Butler’s codefendant, Robert McIntire II, 24, received a 20-year sentence on similar charges in February. McIntire is required to serve the first nine years of his term in custody and pay restitution.

Butler and his co-defendant broke into three Winston residences on April 20, 2011, and two other homes in early May. Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Smith told the court that authorities found similarities in all five incidents, including the description of a gold Kia getaway vehicle that was spotted in Carroll County.

“[Carroll County officials] were able to locate that vehicle and the tag came back to a Patrina Alexander,” said Assistant District Attorney Smith, who explained Alexander had been arrested by Carroll County officials for pawning stolen items. “On her visitation list was this defendant, which is how we began looking at Mr. Butler.”

Authorities began tracking Butler in the gold Kia Optima, which he drove to various pawn shops to pawn stolen items. Butler and McIntire were eventually arrested after the GPS tracking device caught them both trying to burglarize another home. Stolen items belonging to the victims of the Winston burglaries were also recovered during a search of Alexander’s home.

While being questioned, Butler’s co-defendant admitted to the duo’s involvement in the burglaries. In addition to his conviction in Douglas County, Butler is currently serving a 20-year sentence on burglary charges in Carroll County.

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Douglas County District Attorney’s Office Presents 22 Cases to Grand Jury

Prosecutors from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office presented 22 cases to the Grand Jury Friday, according to District Attorney David McDade.

The following cases were presented to the Grand Jury on Friday, October 5th:

- Baruch Benjamin and Chad Washington, on charges of Armed Robbery

- Anthony Allen Spradlin, on charges of Theft by Receiving and Theft by Shoplifting

- Will Wyatt Northcutt and Webb Warren Northcutt, Sr., on charges of Aggravated Assault

- Latoya Ware, on charges of Aggravated Assault

- Arkisha Dominique Edge, on charges of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act

- Erma Jean Ross, on charges of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act

- Quentin Duffie, on charges of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act

- Marcus Ferguson, on charges of Identity Fraud

- Jeremy Troutman, on charges of Armed Robbery

- Creivond Jervel Grier and Eric Lamar Jackson, on charges of Burglary

- Jesus Nova-Ramirez, on charges of Aggravated Assault (Family Violence Act)

- Corey Jose July, on charges of Armed Robbery

- Creivond Jervel Grier, on charges of Burglary

- Jay Lee Carroll, on charges of Trafficking Methamphetamine and Forgery

- Walter Starr and Leeon Jones, on charges of Burglary and Theft by Taking

- Amber Fowler, on charges of Aggravated Battery and Cruelty to Children—1st Degree

- Eddie Randolph Tyler, on charges of Failure to Register as Sex Offender

- Bob Ellerbee, on charges of False Imprisonment, Terroristic Threats and Battery (Family Violence Act)

- Ali Juan Gates, on charges of Aggravated Assault and Terroristic Threats

- Paul Edward Stanley, on charges of Violation of Georgia Controlled Substances Act

- Rodridques Deonta Phillips, on charges of Burglary

- Brandon Ashley Taylor, on charges of Burglary

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Career Criminal Sentenced 30 Years for Lithia Springs Burglary

A convicted felon with a lengthy arrest record saw his criminal career come to an end this week after his latest burglary conviction landed him a 30-year sentence, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Jerry Brandall Storrs was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday after entering a guilty plea to Burglary and Theft by Taking. Storrs was sentenced as a repeat offender, which means the 46-year-old defendant will serve every day of his 12-year prison term. Chief Superior Court Robert J. James also banished Storrs from Douglas County and required him to pay $1463.76 in restitution. Following his release from prison, Storrs will serve the remaining 18 years on probation.

“As I’ve said before, criminals like this man earn every single day they get in prison,” said McDade. “Victims deserve to see justice carried out for them when career criminals like this break in and rob them.”

Storrs’ criminal career began in 1985 with a robbery conviction. Since that time he has accumulated five different burglary convictions, which spread across four different counties around the metro Atlanta area.

Storrs’ latest conviction stems from a residential burglary he committed on April 3, 2009. Assistant District Attorney Steve Knittel explained that the crime occurred within a three-hour span, which began when the victim left her residence at 8:20 a.m. During the three hours the victim was gone; the defendant broke into her house and stole money, food, a television and a Smith & Wesson handgun.

While processing the residence, authorities noticed a small amount of blood on the living room floor. The blood sample was collected and sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) lab for testing. Ten months passed before Douglas County Sherriff investigators were contacted by the GBI, whose search of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) matched Storrs’ DNA with the blood sample taken from the burglary.

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Douglasville Man Sentenced 60 Years for Child Molestation

A 47-year-old man who molested a female child for the majority of her life received a 60-year sentence Monday, according to Douglas County District Attorney David McDade.

Arthur Gerald Crosby of Douglasville will serve the first 25 years of his sentence in prison after entering a guilty plea to three counts of Child Molestation. Crosby will serve the remainder of his 35-year term on probation. Chief Superior Court Judge Robert J. James’ ruling also requires Crosby to have no contact with the victim or her family, register as a sex offender and be banned from Douglas County.

According to the victim, Crosby began the sexual abuse when she was six-years-old. That abuse gradually progressed over the next decade. By the time she reached age 13, the victim was often molested two-three times a week. Assistant District Attorney Tom Kegley told the court that Crosby’s molestation of the victim came to an end last December when his history of sexual abuse was revealed through an investigation.

The investigation included phone calls and text messages between the defendant and the victim, which were set-up through the Douglas County Sherriff’s Office. One of the most revealing messages was when the victim said, “Promise me, you aren’t going to touch me anymore sexually.” The defendant responded by saying, “If you want me to baby, I promise.” The defendant also responded to another message by saying, “I give you my word, I won’t touch you anymore.”

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