Dominoes continue to fall in the prosecution of a criminal enterprise that will forever stain our entire community. But theyre not falling quickly enough.
A Columbia County jury recently convicted Jimmy Lee Rhodes of two 1998 murders. Its too bad they balked at giving Rhodes the death penalty, opting for life imprisonment. But it is understandable; this was a tangled, complicated case, made more so because Rhodes is just one of a handful of sometimes interelated defendants implicated in a series of murders, kidnappings and robberies over the past six years.
The free-flowing group included thugs like David Easterling, who pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping in exchange for testimony that helped put Rhodes away. And it includes Dag Rhodes, who has yet to go on trial for his part in some of the gangs crimes.
There is little complicated about the future of Jimmy Lee Rhodes, even without the death penalty that he certainly deserved for stalking, robbing and murdering Fred and Yong-Suk Walker of Evans. His health is bad enough, officials say, that he likely wont live beyond a few years of his two life sentences. In any event, Rhodes was already serving a life sentence for beating up and robbing an 81-year-old man, so a couple more life sentences are practically meaningless.
The Walkers werent the only victims of this group of thugs. David Holt, the late Sams Club manager, is perhaps best known; his 1998 kidnapping here and murder in Aiken County is predated by the drug-related killings of Ryan J. Singh and Manuel B. Arroyo in Warren County. Six men are serving 20-year sentences for racketeering convictions stemming in part from those cases - crimes that Augusta District Attorney Danny Craig calls horrible and vile.
But while Craig has been aggressive in prosecuting these killers, the full measure of justice is stalled. Aiken County prosecutors have yet to bring Holts murderers to trial. And Warren County authorities have plenty of evidence for murder convictions - not just racketeering prosecution - in the Singh and Arroyo murders, but havent moved to prosecute the case.
The wheels of justice are turning, but it would reassure our local communities here and across the river if theyd spin just a little faster.
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