Bettison Trial Ends In Two Life Sentences

Judge delivers sentence in trial of Pelham grocery store owner death

By Jordan Barela and Asia Wilson | July 23, 2019 at 11:32 AM EDT - Updated July 24 at 12:08 AM

CAMILLA, Ga. (WALB) - The trial of two men charged in the death of a Pelham grocery store owner ended with a jury verdict and the judge’s sentence Tuesday.

On day two, both sides delivered closing arguments Tuesday afternoon and by 7:10 p.m., a verdict had been reached. The judge, after hearing from the victim’s family and family of both charged in the death of Bob Bettison, 79, delivered her sentencing.

Jerrod Johnson and Herbert Lamar Laster were both charged with felony murder, armed robbery, malice murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and two counts of aggravated assault in the death of Bettison in October of last year.

Johnson was found guilty on all charges.

Laster was found guilty of felony murder, armed robbery and both counts of aggravated assault, but he was found not guilty of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Both men were sentenced to life without the chance of parole. Johnson, however, was also sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery and five years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, with all sentences to be served concurrently.

Day 2: Inside the courtroom

Jurors deliberated the fate for Johnson and Laster after prosecutors brought in five people from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) to testify.

Agents showed surveillance video from inside Bettison’s store and video from EZ Mart from across the street.

The videos showed both men.

In an audio interview with the GBI, Laster told agents he first went to EZ Mart the morning of the murder to get two hamburgers, a Gatorade and a soda. He said he and his girlfriend were hungry.

The state argued that Laster bought a bags of chips to distract Bettison. They said Johnson then came from behind and took Bettison’s revolver and shot him, taking two back bags.

Johnson claimed he went to the store to buy lottery tickets.

Agents said Laster was seen on the camera walking into Bettison’s Store. They took the cameras inside Bettison’s store to show he bought two bags of chips. The purchase happened eight minutes before the shooting.

They said Johnson was outside the store waiting.

The state also said the cameras from EZ Mart showed the two meeting on the side of Bettison’s store at some point.

Laster said he went there because it’s his favorite store and it’s cheap.

The state said Johnson was the shooter and Laster held the door open after Johnson shot and robbed Bettison.

Prosecutors said Johnson took the two bank bags and ran out of the store. Later, Laster was seen running as well.

Johnson returned to the store a second time since no money was in the bank bags, that’s when he shot Bettison the second time.

Johnson told GBI agents he went back because he wanted the money.

Laster’s attorney said he was scared and never returned to the store with Johnson the second time.

Agents said Johnson told them he then ran from the store after shooting Bettison the second time and the gun fell out of his pocket.

Another agent revealed he went to a home, looking for Johnson (under search warrants), and found stashes of money.

They also found receipts from Bettison’s store, one that included Laster’s name and his purchase that morning.

They said they found black shirts that were wet and had a strong bleach smell.

Prosecutors said Johnson robbed and shot Bettison twice, all for nearly $400.

Laster’s attorney said he did not shoot or rob Bettison.

GBI agents said Laster indicated he knew a robbery would take place before it happened.

Johnson’s attorney said the state did not prove he was the one seen in the Bettison’s Grocery Store video since it was grainy.

GBI medical examiners said Bettison was shot at in two incidents and had three gunshot wounds. They said the bullets went through parts of his body his body like his chest, rib, lungs and brain.

“Was bleeding in the left chest cavity. It actually fractured the spin and back bone area, causing those injuries. And then of course the projectile that went through the head caused damage to the brain, he had bleeding around the brain,” said Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, the GBI regional medical examiner.

Johnson and Laster were charged in connection to Bettison’s death, which happened in October 2018.

Bob Bettison (Source: Pelham Police Department)

Both suspects were charged with the following:

  • Felony murder

  • Armed robbery

  • Aggravated assault (x2)

  • Malice murder

  • Possession of firearm during commission of a felony

Jerrod Johnson, left and Herbert Laster, right. (Source: Mitchell County Sheriff's Office)

Both suspects were indicted in January 2019.

More witnesses are expected to take the stand Tuesday.

[ Read More: Day 1 of the Bob Bettison trial ]

Opening statements began Monday around 4 p.m.

Herbert Laster in court on Monday. (Source: WALB)

Jerrod Johnson in court on Monday. (Source: WALB)

Two witnesses were called to the stand by the state. The witnesses were the responding Pelham Police Officer and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) special agent. The GBI agent went through photos she collected of the scene. She gathered over 350 pictures.

Laster and Johnson both chose not to testify.

Ricky Collum, Laster’s attorney, requested Judge Heather Lanier dismiss Laster on the malice and felony murder charges, along with the aggravated assault and armed robbery charges. Collum said there was no evidence that proved Laster was a party to the charges. Collum argued that Laster knew the armed robbery was going happen but that the state never proved he robbed or shot Bettison.

Guilty! Glad to Get Justice for Alex Simmons and his Family! Great Job GBI Agent Shiver!

Verdict, sentence handed down in 2017 Leary homicide case

By Krista Monk | May 31, 2019 at 6:17 PM EDT - Updated May 31 at 6:17 PM

CALHOUN CO., Ga. (WALB) - A Leary homicide trial wrapped up after a jury reached a verdict in the case against Cortez Anderson, who was charged in the bludgeoning death of Alex Simmons Jr., 77.

Anderson was found guilty of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault and home invasion Friday afternoon. He was arrested by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office in November of 2017.

Prosecutors argued that Anderson broke into Simmons’ home in September of 2017.

District Attorney Joe Mulholland said Anderson bludgeoned Simmons to death with an unknown object over a couple hundred dollars.

Many of the law enforcement officers said it was one of the worst crime scenes they had seen.

The judge sentenced Anderson to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Great Week In Grady County!

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March 20, 2019 at 7:08 AM EST - Updated March 20 at 7:12 AM
CAIRO, GA (WALB) - On Tuesday, soon after a jury was seated in the murder case of the State versus Nicholas Liquinte Perry, the proceedings stopped for a plea bargain.

Perry was charged and indicted for the murder of Elijah Smith. District Attorney Joe Mulholland said that the facts showed that on January 7th, 2017, Smith and Perry were involved in a ‘mutual combat’ fight for $10, in the backyard of a home in Cairo.

Smith’s body was found the same day, in the area of 7th Street in Cairo.

After the jury was selected, Perry pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

The Honorable Heather H. Lanier sentenced the defendant to twenty years, ten to serve in the State Penitentiary.

“I hope that this will give the family of the victim some closure knowing that the Defendant will serve a lengthy sentence in the State System,” D. A. Mulholland said.

”There are no winners in a case like this, especially when the fight was over ten dollars. I pray for all of the family members involved.”

God's Country Will Not Stand For This.

Verdict handed down in Bainbridge murder trial

Thaddus Nundra (Courtesy: WALB)

Posted: Fri 10:58 AM, Feb 15, 2019

By: WALB
February 15, 2019

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (WALB) -- A verdict has been reached in the murder trial of a man accused of gunning down a local newspaper employee.

Thaddus Nundra has been convicted of killing 67-year-old Hubert Moore in 2017.

Moore was shot to death in Bainbridge while he was delivering a daily edition of the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight.

Officials say the motive behind the killing was robbery, and that Thaddus Nundra was one of three men who wanted to hold up a store, but happened on Moore first.

Ronnie Dean McFadden, 42, Thaddus Nundra, 38, and Louis Lamorris Ousley, 29, were charged with killing Moore, a longtime employee of the Bainbridge Post-Searchlight.

South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mulholland had strong feelings about this case:

"On October 26th, 2017, the South Georgia Circuit suffered a tragedy that our small corner of Southwest Georgia is not accustomed to. Hubert Moore was shot and killed while preparing for his paper delivery in the early morning hours. Mr. Moore was not shot by an enemy, or a vindictive assailant, but rather was shot randomly by a man determined to rob Mr. Moore of his money.

"Mr. Moore had eight dollars on his person. The killer, Thaddus Nundra, was released from prison a year before the murder. Mr. Hubert spent the last moments of his life lying in an empty parking lot gasping for air. He left behind a wife of twenty-six years. They spent their time together raising cows, enjoying each other, and spoiling their little dog. This Valentine’s Day, Mr. Hubert’s widow wasn’t awakened by a kiss from her husband but rather an empty bed. She received no flowers, nor any signs of affection from her best friend Mr. Moore.

"The only peace I can give Mrs. Moore is that this Valentine’s Day the Jury convicted Thaddus Nundra. The Court sentenced him to Life without Parole. Thaddus Nundra will spend whatever time he has left on this world rotting in a ten by ten cell in the State System. While he certainly doesn’t deserve even this, I hope that the Moore family and friends can have some closure knowing that his killer will never see the light of day again as a free man.

“Our community was sickened by this crime. This is something that happens in Metro areas, not God’s Country. I cannot thank the Jury, Bainbridge Public Safety, Decatur County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and all of the other parties that made this conviction become a reality. Our community will recover from this case and be stronger and more vigilant in the future. But we will never forget Mr. Hubert Moore. Rest in Peace and God Bless You Mr. Hubert.”

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DNA Update

post searchlight.jpg


By Asia Wilson | January 29, 2019 at 10:06 PM EST - Updated January 29 at 10:06 PM

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A South Georgia district attorney said a new scientific DNA method has been admitted for an upcoming trial out of Bainbridge. And the entire state could begin to use 'True Allele’ which could help crime investigators find killers more quickly.

Joe Mulholland, the district attorney for the South Georgia Judicial Circuit, said last week that the judge ruled that True Allele is scientifically reliable and prosecutors can move forward with including this in the trial for Hubert Moore’s murder.

Prosecutors were able to use the co-mingled DNA to identify Thaddus Nundra as the man they believe pulled the trigger while Moore was working at the Bainbridge Post Searchlight in 2017.

Thaddus Nundra (Source: Irwin County)

“We were able to say, ‘Yes, this was the shooter’s hat,’ which was Nundra and we also submitted the other two individuals who were involved in the shooting and they were excluded. We were able to say, ‘Yes, he’s the shooter of the three.’ We know he was the one who did the shooting,” said Mulholland.

The trial will begin on Feb. 11 in Decatur County.

Prosecutors said that if the three men are convicted, it will go to the supreme court.

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Baker County/ Great Job Senior ADA David Atwell!

Baker Co. man pleads guilty to child molestation

By Emileigh Forrester | January 29, 2019 at 4:14 AM EST - Updated January 29 at 4:14 AM

BAKER CO., GA (WALB) - A Baker County man pleaded guilty in a child molestation case, just before he was set to go to trial.

Jeffrey Keen, 30, will spend life in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated child molestation, according to South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mulholland.

Keen entered the guilty plea in Baker County Monday ahead of his trial.

Mulholland said a judge sentenced Keen to life in prison.

He said Keen had a criminal history prior to this.

He said the guilty plea came before jury selection started

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Senior Assistant David Atwell secures Life Without Parole in Grady County

Lopez found guilty, gets life for May 2017 murder

  • 6 hrs ago

CAIRO — A Grady County jury found Nicholas Lopez guilty of murder and a judge has sentenced him to life without parole.

The two-day trial ended Tuesday, and following the jury’s verdict, Grady County Superior Court Judge Kevin Chason handed down the sentence of life without the possibility of parole. 

Lopez was indicted for the May 26, 2017 shooting death of Ronald Moon, 49, of Cairo.

“Mr. Lopez had been a thorn in law enforcement’s side for quite some time,” said South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland. “I thank the jury for their hard work and diligence and the Sheriff’s Office for a thorough investigation. Senior ADA (David) Atwell did a commendable job trying the case. I pray for Mr. Moon’s family and hope this gives them some closure.”

Lopez was indicted for murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and aggravated assault. 

The Grady County Sheriff’s Office headed up the investigation, with Chief Investigator Chris Luckey taking the lead. 

According to an incident report, a male complainant told the responding officer that Lopez shot Moon in the chest. 

Authorities found Moon, who was in the yard at the incident address with a gunshot wound and excessive bleeding, according to the report. 

The trial concluded a long month for the South Georgia Office of the District Attorney in Decatur, Grady and Calhoun counties were trials were being held. The DA’s office secured four life without parole convictions, along with a 30-plus-year conviction in a child molestation case in four separate trials.

“Myself and three senior assistants tried four cases and were able to secure four convictions” Mulholland said. “We welcome the opportunity to prep for the coming year and we will be ready to start anew in January.  Merry Christmas to everyone in the Circuit and stay safe over the course of the holidays.”

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