The wheels of justice often turn slowly.
Many Columbia County criminal cases were resolved in 2010, but others have yet to conclude.
Prosecutors expect to present a 2009 murder case against a Columbia County woman to a jury this year, but not until September, District Attorney Ashley Wright said.
Rebecca Bowers Sears, 42, and her son, Christopher Sean Bowers, 21, are accused of using a bat and claw hammer to beat to death 41-year-old Laverne "Kay" Parsons, who was Sears' neighbor and former co-worker, on March 25, 2009.
Because Wright is seeking the death penalty, Sears and Bowers must be tried separately.
"We don't have a trial date for Bowers yet," Wright said.
Lawanda Concettes Tripp, 40, also is expected to head to a courtroom this year. She is accused of killing 22-month-old Teaira Michele Hall, whom she was baby-sitting, on Nov. 15, 2009.
The toddler wasn't breathing when emergency personnel arrived at her Avrett Landing home. Teaira died the next day of "multitraumatic head injuries," according to a coroner.
Experts are still reviewing evidence, and Tripp is expected to be tried in March, said her attorney, Victor Hawk.
Two cases -- one old and one new -- are expected to reach courtrooms later this month.
Brandon Len Wise, 27, is expected to be tried for vehicular homicide in the July 2008 death of 24-year-old Christian Giles. Giles was walking along Mullikin Road with her husband and dogs when Wise's sport utility vehicle fatally struck her.
Wise agreed to a plea agreement in August but withdrew his intent to plead after Judge Jim Blanchard recused himself from the case during the sentencing hearing because he knew some of the witnesses. Since then, Anthony Nicastro has left the district attorney's office and the case has been transferred to Assistant District Attorney Adam King.
"The case will be tried the last week of January," Hawk, also Wise's attorney, said. "All negotiations have ended."
A nearly 20-year-old murder case also will go before a jury starting Jan. 31. Keith Brian Sheppard, 56, was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for the fatal shooting of Jesse B. Rickerson in 1992.
After a failed 1996 appeal, his conviction was recently overturned under a habeas corpus claim. Sheppard claims the jury wasn't charged to also consider voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included charge to murder and that his attorney didn't object at the trial or bring it up at the appeal.
Sheppard, who has been in prison since his conviction, will be retried, Wright said.
A Martinez man also is awaiting his murder trial. Michael Todd Williams, 40, was charged in the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Misty Weegar, 41. She was found dead Aug. 11 in her Grovetown home.
Williams pled not guilty at his Nov. 5 arraignment and is being held without bond in the Columbia County Detention Center awaiting trial.
"Michael Williams will be tried in June," said Hawk, who is also Williams' attorney.
An Evans woman is expected to be sentenced soon, just months after her husband was sentenced to 100 years in prison for abusing their two sons.
Thomas G. Beasley, 33, was convicted on five counts of cruelty to children and one count of second-degree child cruelty.
His wife, April Beasley, also was charged with one count of second degree child cruelty because she and her husband didn't immediately seek medical treatment for their seriously injured son in March 2008. The then-9-year-old was left partially blind and developmentally delayed after his father slammed his head into the floor.
Although the justice system moves slowly, 2010 did bring several cases to an end:
- On Feb. 5, Brandon Christopher Newman, 28, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted of vehicular homicide in connection with a May 2008 wreck that killed his brother, Cameron Newman, 23, and Mallory Jason, 19, and seriously injured a 16-year-old girl.
The trial was Newman's second. The first, in November 2008, was declared a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.
- A Gaston, S.C., couple pled guilty to running down an Augusta man with a tow truck. Michael Faron Brown, 29, and his wife, Victoria Nichole Brown, 22, were charged with murder and aggravated assault for running over William Jacobs in April 2009.
Victoria Brown pled guilty to criminal damage to property and misdemeanor simple battery in April and was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by four years' probation.
Michael Brown pled guilty in May to first degree vehicular homicide and criminal damage to property. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In late May, he filed a request to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was misled and misrepresented in the case and was ill-advised, confused and misled by his attorney as to his legal rights and consequences of his guilty plea. No decision has been reached.
- An Augusta teen was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to a 2008 home invasion and murder in Grovetown.
Garland Ray Pittman, 16, was the last of five men to stand trial in the September 2008 fatal shooting of Rickey Gibson, 33, and the assault of his girlfriend and infant son. During his April trial, Pittman pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter, robbery and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Three of the four other Augusta men charged -- Karmbi Octavious Young, Martin Napoleon Holmes and Willie Bernard Butler -- were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Antwon Booker was acquitted of malice murder and convicted of burglary, armed robbery, two counts of aggravated assault and other charges.
The jury could not reach a verdict on the felony murder charge.
- Two people were sent to prison after being charged in a 2009 armed robbery of a Martinez jewelry store.
Police say Gerson Ayala Romero, 26, of Tennessee, and Elisa Johanna Martinez, 25, of Atlanta, and at least one other person used guns and knives to rob The Gold Shop in Martinez. They stole jewelry and an employee's car.
On Aug. 19, Romero was sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 60 years' probation after pleading guilty to armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault as part of a negotiated plea agreement with the district attorney's office. Martinez was sentenced to 20 years in prison after her Nov. 22 guilty plea.
Wright said that exact figures were not yet available but that her office prosecutes a rising number of criminal cases each year.
"In general, we see a slight increase every year in every county," she said.
The time it takes to try those cases "depends on a lot of things," Wright said, including the type of evidence involved, what type of evidence testing is required and who is ahead of the defendant on the trial calendar.
In addition to trying cases, Wright's office reviews cases, decides whether to pursue charges and presents evidence to a grand jury for indictments.
Wright said a file against a West Lake man accused of rape is being reviewed at her office.
Michael James O'Grady Jr., 43, of Martinez, was arrested July 30 on charges of rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
A 17-year-old accused O'Grady of raping her on the West Lake golf course in October 2008. She originally declined to prosecute but has since changed her mind.
Wright said that the sheriff's office transferred the case file to her office but that it has not yet resulted in an indictment.
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