Babysitter arrested after 22-month-old's death
Columbia County deputies on Tuesday arrested a Martinez woman suspected of killing a toddler she was baby-sitting.
Lawanda Concettes Tripp, 39, of the 1500 block of Avery Landing, was arrested at about 2 p.m. and charged with murder. Authorities said she is accused of killing 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall of the 1800 block of Hill Drive at Fort Gordon.
Authorities were called to Avery Landing on Sunday evening in response to a report that the child wasn't breathing. At the time of the call, Teaira was in Tripp's care, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.
Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison pronounced Teaira dead that night at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, Coroner Vernon Collins said.
The preliminary findings of an autopsy performed Monday at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta showed that Teaira suffered "multi-traumatic head injuries," Collins said.
Tripp told police that the child was acting "strange" and was "throwing a fit," according to a police report.
A deputy noted in the report that Tripp rode with Teaira in an ambulance to Doctors Hospital, where the child was treated before being transferred to MCG.
Tripp's neighbor told police he was outside Sunday evening when he saw her in her front yard holding the toddler. He said Tripp told him the child wasn't breathing, and he brought them both inside his home and called authorities.
Phone messages left for the neighbor last week were not immediately returned.
Morris said Tripp had watched Teaira on numerous occasions. Teaira's mother, Antoinette Hall, and Tripp knew each other through work, he said. Hall is in the Army, and Tripp is a civilian employee at Fort Gordon.
Mother, son charged with murder get separate trials
A Columbia County woman and her son accused of fatally beating her neighbor in March will be tried in separate trials.
Rebecca Bowers Sears, of the 200 block of Hot Springs Drive, and Christopher Sean Bowers, of the 400 block of Briarwood Drive, Martinez, are accused of beating 41-year-old Laverne "Kay" Parsons, who was also Sears' former co-worker, on March 25 with a bat and claw hammer. In May, they pled not guilty to murder, armed robbery and burglary.
District Attorney Ashley Wright plans to seek the death penalty. Trial dates have not been set yet.
"By law, we're required to try them separately," Wright said at a hearing for pre-trial motions in Columbia County on Thursday.
Sears' attorney, Victor Hawk, and Bowers' attorney, Jacque Hawk, withdrew previous motions requesting that their clients be allowed to visit and review the crime scene with their attorneys.
Superior Court Judge Sheryl Jolly approved a request by defense attorneys to declare Sears and Bowers indigent, so a second attorney can be appointed by the state at no cost. By law, defendants charged in death penalty cases are allowed to have a second attorney.
"The (Sears and Bowers) family has put out a lot to save at least half of the cost," said Hawk, who was hired with his brother, Victor, to defend the mother and son.
The Hawks agreed that they have other pending motions, many pertaining to evidence, that they can't yet present because all of it has not been turned over to them.
That evidence includes results from DNA and other scientific testing as well as land line and cell phone records.
Wright said many of the tests are dependent on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab and will be shared with defense attorneys as soon as testing is complete and results are made available.
Prosecution and defense attorneys hope to discuss evidentiary motions at a hearing scheduled for December or possibly at not yet scheduled hearings in January or February.
Motion in sexual assault sentence postponed
A hearing scheduled for Wednesday to reconsider the sentence of a former Augusta gynecologist convicted of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl was postponed for two weeks.
Augusta defense attorney Peter Johnson told Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet that he wasn't ready Wednesday to argue a motion to reduce the 20-year sentence of Jerry Jackson Lee II, 49, of Evans. Instead, the motion will be heard sometime next month.
Jackson was convicted in June 2007 of aggravated sexual battery. The state Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction in September. Georgia law gives convicted felons 120 days to seek a reduced sentence following the affirmation of the conviction by the appeals court, Johnson said.
Jackson's 20-year sentence is the maximum allowed for his crime.
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