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Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Special Report: Inside the Clayton County District Attorney's Office
Backlog of pending cases clogs up justice systemBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Oct. 29, 2007
Kenneth Jerome Alexander has been under investigation on child molestation charges for more than three years -- technically.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished investigating the 45-year-old former police officer in 2004. Warrants were applied for and received, the preliminary case was presented to a magistrate judge and accepted, and the case was sent to the Clayton County District Attorney's office in March of that year.
But it hasn't moved since then.
More than three years later, the file is still there. The district attorney's office has not dismissed the charges against Alexander, and it hasn't brought them to a grand jury for indictment.
According to the GBI, the case is considered "under open investigation" until the district attorney moves on it.
District Attorney Jewel Scott said the case is "peculiar," but, according to records obtained by the Clayton News Daily, Alexander's case is not all that unusual. It is one of more than 750.
Those cases, including aggravated assault, child molestation, drug possession and rape, have apparently languished in the district attorney's office for at least a year. Some for as long as seven years.
The records show pending cases dating back to 2000, when Bob Keller was re-elected to the district attorney's office.
Seven cases have been in the district attorney's office since then. There are eight more that have been waiting to be indicted or dismissed since 2001. The number of cases waiting for action has increased dramatically since 2005, when Scott took office.
There are more than 200 pending cases which were first brought to the office in 2005, and more than 450, open and unindicted, cases between Jan. 1 and the end of September 2006.
"You've got cases that are sitting there too long," said Leon Hicks, a veteran defense lawyer with an office in Jonesboro. "I've got cases where nothing's been done for six months, eight months, 10 months, a year, and I ask, 'Where's this at?' 'Well, it hasn't been indicted yet.' Either do it or don't, but do something, that's my attitude."
There are no records now available that show the backlog of unindicted cases when Bob Keller was district attorney. Even so, Hicks and attorney, Joe Roberto, both believe the situation got worse under Scott.
Reality or misconception?
Senior Assistant District Attorney Todd Naugle, however, said that's a misperception. Naugle was a senior assistant district attorney in Keller's administration and has continued in that role with Scott, since she beat Keller in the 2004 election. He said the case backlog isn't a new problem.
"That number has probably been consistent for years," he said. "The victims move and you can't find them. You wait for reports from the police department. There's a backlog at the crime lab ... There's always been a backlog of cases."
The two long-time lawyers, however, say there was a significant change in 2005, when Scott took office. Cases that used to move quickly now languish in limbo for years, they said, and each assistant district attorney has stacks of pending cases which have been "left on the floor."
"You can ask anybody who was there for that regime and this one -- it's taking longer," Hicks said. "If you've got a backlog of cases that haven't been indicted, there has to be a reason."
Roberto said Scott, who had no courtroom experience when she was elected the county's top prosecutor, had a "disastrous" learning curve. He attributes the growing backlog to a number of staffing decisions and management-structure changes.
"It used to be that the number-one and number-two people in the district attorney's office attended the probable cause hearings," Roberto said. "So they knew what was coming into the office. I could walk up to [Bob Keller] and say, 'Hey Bob, I've got such and such a case, what do you think about a bond?' He would deal with it on the front end, instead of letting it go on forever."
Hicks agreed, saying defense attorneys used to call assistant district attorneys and work out deals over the phone. Today, he said, if he approaches a prosecutor, he or she declines to negotiate, deferring to superiors.
Under Scott, Roberto said, the assistant district attorneys, who attend the probable cause hearings at the front-end of the court process, don't have the authority to negotiate plea deals and bonds. Everything has to be checked and approved by Scott, or one of the top two assistants.
Because cases can't be dealt with quickly, he said, they go through a series of hearings and calendar assignments, with paperwork accumulating and the system falling even further behind.
There have been no policy changes, however, in the authority given to the assistant prosecutors, Naugle said, and he argues that the procedures haven't changed, either.
"I'm the one who was calling the shots before, and I'm still doing it the same way," Naugle said. "I do the same thing. I haven't changed how I go about giving them authority and autonomy with the cases. There may be a perception of that, but I don't see the reality."
Smaller cases gunk up the works
Both Roberto and Hicks said the district attorney's office, under Scott, has not successfully separated the smaller, more negotiable cases from the larger ones, which require major investigation and attention. Cases that could be dealt with in a few minutes of negotiation, they said, are among those that have remained unindicted for years.
Court records show unindicted, yet undismissed cases involving driving with a suspended license, loitering, and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana while driving.
"The way you clean your desk off," Hicks said, "is you take the cases that are easy and quick, and you take care of them. You get rid of all the chaff and then you have that wheat."
Naugle maintains the backlog isn't made up of the "smaller cases." A smaller case that is difficult to prosecute -- such as a criminal trespassing charge, in which the business making the accusation no longer exists, leaving no witnesses to the alleged crime -- can be dismissed.
It's the bigger cases, the more serious ones, which can't be dismissed even years after the incident. Though some of the cases coming into the district attorney's office are difficult to prosecute, and may take years to investigate and bring to trial, the office can't dismiss them, because the charges are too serious, Naugle said.
"If it's a murder or an armed robbery, and there's a witness who has disappeared, we're not going to close that case," the senior prosecutor said. "The citizens of Clayton County are entitled to have these cases prosecuted. Even though the cases are old and witnesses may be hard to find, the citizens are entitled to have them prosecuted."
Though the office is dealing with the cases in the same way it always has, according to Naugle, he does admit that it has gotten harder. He also admits that prosecutions are more likely to be delayed than they used to be. Naugle and Scott blame that on societal changes.
"The major difference," Naugle said, "is that, in 2004, the crime rate started taking off. We were dealing with about 7,000 warrants around that time. Now, we do 10,000 a year."
It is not simply an increase in cases that is clogging the wheels of justice, though, according to the district attorney's office. More and more cases involve victims and witnesses who are transient. Many of the pending cases are on hold because investigators are trying to find the witnesses or the victims, who have moved since the crime occurred.
"It has become increasingly difficult for us to track our victims, because we have such a transient population," Scott said.
Some suggest that tracking victims becomes even more difficult the longer the case is delayed. The longer it takes to bring a case to trial, they say, the harder it will be to successfully prosecute it. Victims and witnesses, for example, often lose confidence that prosecutors are actually going to do anything, and move on with their lives.
Memory fades, testimony changes
"When you have something that's four year's old, people's recollections change," Hicks said. "People remember it differently. Their perspectives change. Witnesses move away. Witnesses die."
Even Naugle said cases are significantly harder to prosecute after about a year, or a year and a half.
Whatever the explanation for the hundreds of unindicted cases, the practical results are a clogged-up prosecution process and a large number of people, who are unable to argue their cases, so they can get closure.
"It overly taxes the [district attorney's] staff," Roberto said. "They've got a bunch of status reports and a whole bunch of calendar hearings that shouldn't be there ... You've also got a lot of little guys with these indictments pending forever. They've got clouds over their heads. The indictments could come down at anytime."
Hicks said defendants, facing the possibility of an indictment, can't do anything but wait. They can't petition for a speedy trial, because they have not been officially charged, and are only under perpetual "ongoing investigation."
Defense attorneys can pester prosecutors to do something with a case, but that's the extent of their recourse. Whatever plans a defendant makes, he has to take the ever-pending indictment into consideration.
Kenneth Alexander's livelihood, like that of the others with pending cases, could face daunting challenges because of his situation. He can not work as a police officer for as long as the case is pending. Even though it isn't ready to go to trial, he is still under suspicion.
Although, under our legal system, he is innocent until proven guilty, even a cursory background check would raise legitimate questions for anyone interested in hiring the 45-year-old former cop.
At the same time, the two teens, who accused him of molesting them, are now nearing their 18th birthdays. They have spent the majority of their high school years knowing that Alexander is a free man, and, perhaps, wondering if he would ever be prosecuted.
When asked about a potential indictment of Alexander, all Scott can promise is that it will happen "some time soon."
Though her office disputes the cause of the backlog, Scott has argued that the solution involves more funding. She has annually appealed for more money from the Clayton County Commission. Currently, according to information from the county, the district attorney's office -- with the departmental goal stated as, "Prosecute all defendants in a timely manner while keeping budgetary costs at a minimum" -- has 62 positions and a budget of about $3 million.
"We need more, but we appreciate the county's limited resources," Naugle said. "Our staff has not increased proportionally [to the growth in the crime rate], to do what we need to do to keep up."
Scott has lobbied Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell for increased funding to pay for additional investigators and prosecutors. Bell, however, has said a budget increase would require a tax hike, and he said he will not raise taxes to give the district attorney's office more money.
Bell said he believes Scott has a record of mismanaging money and staff, which he said is made clear by the number of undismissed and unindicted cases.
Action being taken
Naugle said the office has already made changes, though, in response to the more than 750 pending cases, and he believes those adjustments will reduce that number in the future.
The office has designated some of its investigators as a "cold case unit." Currently working on the more than 450 cases from 2006, those investigators review each case, determining why it wasn't worked when it came into the office and attempting to move forward on it.
The office also recently added a case-evaluation system, in which a senior investigator categorizes the difficulty in prosecuting a case as the file comes into the office, Naugle said.
Though critical of the district attorney, Roberto also thinks that things are getting better in the prosecutor's office. He said he believes the office has made the necessary changes to staff and procedures, and Scott has passed through the learning curve.
Roberto said he would support Scott, in her upcoming race for a second term, because, he said, she has grown into the position.
"She's got a pretty good house now, but that painful period of learning on the job, and staffing mistakes, just kind of gunked up the system," he said. "She's running a pretty tight ship, but she's still bailing water."
Family struggles with knowledge of murderBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Nov. 26, 2007
The solar-powered cross is supposed to light up over the grave, at night. But it doesn't.
Donald Ray Skinner's grave is shadowed, all day, and the small solar panel doesn't get the sunlight needed to light the cross. The dead man's mother and sister visit him every day, and they move the cross to a lighted patch of yard, and return again, in the evening, to replace the grave ornament for the night.
The two women visit the grave every day, and every day Donald Skinner's mother cries, sobbing like a child.
"That was her only son," said Robin McPherson, Donald Skinner's sister. "He was like the pick of the litter. I'm his baby sister, and me and him look alike, and I used to be his sidekick when I was little. He's just really going to be missed."
There is a stone bench over Donald Skinner's grave in Douglasville. There is a picture of a tractor trailer on one side, and a picture of a man fishing on the other, because those are things he loved.
It says "In Loving Memory," on the bench and it has his nicknames inscribed: "Bubba," and "Donnie Ray Skinner." It doesn't have his real, full name. His mother, Carol C. Skinner, is trying to get that changed. It's hard, though, because the burial arrangements are legally controlled by Donald Skinner's wife, who is in jail on charges she conspired to murder him.
His widow, 51-year-old Carolyn Allene Skinner, wanted her husband's life insurance money and convinced a police officer to murder him, according to Clayton County police and prosecutors. The investigators say she asked a relative to help her kill her husband about eight years ago. The relative said, no, but Allene Skinner allegedly began an affair with a Atlanta State Farmer's Market Police Officer in 2006, and convinced him to ambush her husband, chase him across the parking lot of a truck depot and shoot him four times.
The officer, 49-year-old Charles Alan Smith, confessed to killing Donald Skinner, who was 49 when he died. He said he waited for Donald Skinner to drive the refrigerated semi truck into Cool Cargo Inc., on June 9, and shot him with a .40-caliber police pistol.
Smith told police he did it because he loved Skinner's wife, Allene. He said she told him a fantastical story about how she was an undercover government agent, and her husband was going to get her killed. He said he did it because she asked him to.
Allene Skinner was driving the police officer's truck, the days following the killing, and almost immediately applied for his life insurance benefits, according to Clayton County detectives.
Donald Skinner was shot four times, at the Forest Park trucking depot, in the early morning hours: once in the thigh, once in the left hand, once in the side, the bullet fatally piercing his liver, and once in his eye. Investigators found high-quality bullet shell casings, scattered at the scene, and connected them to the police officer's gun.
On June 9, a trail of Donald Skinner's blood zig-zagged across the parking lot, and the veteran detective said he could picture the 49-year-old truck driver's last, futile efforts, running back and forth before he died.
Carol Skinner and Robin McPherson went to the murder scene. They stood there, in the parking lot. Just looking at the place where the man they knew as son and brother died.
They imagined that his ankle, injured in an accident when he was 19 or 20, was stiff after the long drive, and it was probably hard for him to walk. They wondered why he left his two pistols in the cab of the truck, tucked in a black bag. He carried the guns for fear of robbery, they knew, and they wondered why he hadn't been robbed. They tried to picture their loved one's last moments.
"He was pushing away on his elbows, when he died," Carol Skinner said. "My son did not know who that man was. He had no idea who that man was, who was killing him. I know my son was looking up at that police man, when he shot him. That's the question I want to ask that man, 'Was my son looking at you when you shot him?'"
McPherson is a former crime scene investigator, so she had visited crime scenes before and knew how to look at the left-behind details and picture the violence happening. This time, though, it was her brother.
"I kind of know what my brother went through," McPherson said, and that's all she will say about it.
The two women are still, sometimes, shocked by the story of Donald Skinner's death. Other times, it seems like maybe they knew, all along, like maybe they saw it happening and just didn't understand it until now.
The last time she saw her son, Carol Skinner followed him outside, she said, urged by something unseen, to tell him she loved him one more time.
He went to his mom's house, in Douglasville, down the street from the graveyard where he's now buried in blue work clothes, before he left on his last truck drive. He ate dinner. He picked up a videotape of the most recent "Survivor," so he could watch it in his cab. When he left with Allene Skinner, Carol Skinner followed him outside and she said, "I love you, baby. Be careful."
He said, "I love you too, Mama."
"He was dead the next Saturday," Carol Skinner said.
It seems, the women said, like God had worked everything out before hand. Donald Skinner spent last Christmas with his mom, for the first time in a long time, and ate his favorite holiday meal, chicken and dumplings. The Wednesday before he was murdered, he attended a bible study. He was asked if Jesus was his Lord and Savior and he said, according to the people who were there, "Oh yeah," reassuring his mother that his soul was in the right place, when he died.
There were other signs of the impending murder, too. Sinister signs. Looking back, it's hard for the women to know if they recognized them.
McPherson recalls that Allene Skinner was driving the police officer's red pickup truck, when she told the family that Donald Ray had been killed. "The minute she told me," McPherson said, "I just dropped to the ground. After they picked me up off of the ground, it just come out of my mouth: 'That [nasty woman] killed my brother. That just came out of my mouth."
Skinner's mother said the family seemed to immediately sense his wife was behind the murder.
"I knew she told lies," Carol Skinner said. "I knew she had done things, conned people and all ... She was a con artist from way back. She was manipulative. She spent all his money. He told that truck driver that rode with him that she just spent too much money for him."
Allene Skinner has remained silent on the charges against her. Her lawyer cannot be reached, though he has been called repeatedly for comment.
Finances had always been a strain, on the Skinners' relationship, McPherson said, and had finally led to the couple's estrangement.
"Daddy said, 'Son, you ain't never going to have nothing as long as you're with that woman.' But he took her back, because he felt sorry for her," McPherson said.
The two women know now, that they had reason to be concerned about the woman in Donald Skinner's life. They now know that those nagging thoughts were, actually, signs pointing to something sinister.
The detective told them how their son died, and how his wife was having an affair and talking about having him killed. Now, five months after the murder, approaching the holiday season and waiting for justice, they're trying to figure out how to live with the knowledge.
"Nobody knows heartache until they've buried one of their kids," Carol Skinner said. "I miss him all the time. I remember him all the time, and they took him away from us. I don't look forward to living long, and then I'll be with him."
Carol Skinner said her anger is directed at Charles Smith -- "He knew better. I wouldn't have killed a dog like he killed my son." -- and not at the woman her son loved. Carol Skinner said she feels a little sorry for her daughter-in-law, because nobody ever loved her. Still, she hopes the woman who allegedly conspired to kill her son is sentenced to death. She hopes the police officer is sentenced to death, too, even though the district attorney's office said the case doesn't rise to the required legal standard for the death penalty.
"He was my only son," Carol Skinner said. "I want them to seek the death penalty."
McPherson's sympathies run the opposite direction. She describes her sister-in-law with words like "evil," "devil," "liar," and "manipulator." McPherson said she thinks the Farmers' Market cop fell under Allene Skinner's spell, just like her brother did.
The two women agree, though, that they don't ever want the pair to walk free. They will attend Smith and Allene Skinner's arraignment, on Dec. 5, and every court date after that, in hopes of seeing justice.
They will visit Donald Skinner's grave, every day, move the solar-powered cross and stand where his body is buried.
They are trying to get Allene Skinner's name taken off of the contract with the graveyard. McPherson visited her sister-in-law at the jail, trying to get the woman to sign over the authority for the burial plot. Allene Skinner refused, though. McPherson said she was reduced to pounding on the glass, dividing the prisoner from the visitor, hitting the glass repeatedly with her bare hand and "looking like a crazy woman."
The other day, McPherson took a recent photo of her brother, where he's smiling, sealed it in water-proof plastic and posted it at the grave. She put it next to the cross, by the bench where it says "In Loving Memory." She wasn't supposed to put anything there without Allene Skinner's approval, according to the legal contract, but she didn't care.
She just wanted, she said, to see her brother's face.
‘What is aggravated assault?’By Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Feb. 13, 2007
In the days after the trial, one juror had a question.
After a week-long trial — sitting with 11 other people in the jury box in Clayton County Superior Court and listening to four defense attorneys, a prosecuting attorney and a string of family members, police officers and experts — she still had a question.
She didn’t bring up the question when the judge read the law, on a Thursday afternoon in May. It did come up briefly, however, during jury deliberations. The jury wrote a note asking the judge. It was the last thing the jury did before court was dismissed for the night.
The question: What is aggravated assault?
Sitting on the witness stand on Thursday, more than seven months after the trial ended and two men were each found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault, an appeals attorney asked former juror Stacey Sullivan about that question.
“Did you understand what that charge meant?” asked Herbert Adams, Jr., during a hearing on a motion for the retrial of the two men convicted of shooting and killing 4-year-old Travon Wilson.
“I didn’t fully understand,” Sullivan said.
“If you had fully understood, would you have voted differently?” Adams pressed.
Sullivan chewed gum. She has streaked blonde hair. She wore royal blue hospital scrubs and hoop earring and she didn’t want to be there, on the stand.
“It may have been different,” she said.
Sullivan was one of a few jurors from the Wilson murder trial who went to the defense attorney’s office, the week after the verdict, and asked the question.
Xavious Cordera Taylor, 18, and Christopher Allen Emmanuel, 19, were each found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault in connection with the child’s death. Two other men were found not guilty. Eleven others pleaded to lesser sentences for their parts.
Wilson was shot while riding his red bicycle, a birthday present, in the park in Riverdale in 2004. According to police and prosecutors, two gangs met at the park in 2004 to fight. The Hit Squad gang, including Taylor, and the Southside Mafia gang, including Emmanuel, met by arrangement around 10 p.m. that spring.
Taylor was sentenced to 35 years. Emmanuel, who admitted to firing an SKS assault rifle in the park the night Wilson was killed, was sentenced to 40 years.
The jurors wrote out the question about the definition of aggravated assault and gave it to a bailiff to give to the judge, after a few hours of deliberations.
According to state law, aggravated assault is defined as an assault with “an intent to murder, to rape or rob,” an assault with “a deadly weapon,” or an assault with “any object when used offensively against a person is likely to or actually does result in bodily injury.”
The judge received a second note written on lined yellow paper before the jury went home for the night telling him to disregard the previous question.
“The court has a duty, a legal duty, to answer their question,” Adams said during last week’s hearing on a motion to impeach the verdict and retry the case.
In the more than 2,000 pages of trial transcripts, the question comes at the end of the ninth volume. According to Judge Matthew Simmons, he told the four defense attorneys the next morning that the question had been withdrawn. None of them objected.
A few days after the trial, Sullivan and other jury members went to one of the lawyers and asked why the question had never been answered. In a sworn affidavit written by Adams and signed by Sullivan, Sullivan said understanding the charge would definitely have led her to a different verdict.
Adams subpoenaed her to testify at the hearing on the motion to retry the case, hoping to use a juror’s confusion to undermine the jury’s verdict.
A few days before the hearing, Sullivan walked into the district attorney’s office crying, saying she didn’t want to testify and she didn’t mean for her question to be a defense of Taylor and Emmanuel, said Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Turner.
The motion for a retrial was routine, Turner said. The other arguments in the hearing — including the argument that part of Riverdale might not be in Clayton County so maybe the defendants were tried in the wrong jurisdiction — were routine.
The box of trial transcripts sitting on the judge’s desk, the appeals attorney calling on the defense attorney to testify for their client, the inmates wearing red jumpsuits trying to turn around to see their families sitting in the back of the mostly-empty courtroom — all of this was normal legal proceedings in the years following a long sentence.
What was unusual, in the hearing, was the juror on the witness stand.
“It’s legal garbage,” Turner said.
“That’s nonsense,” Adams said.
“According to the Georgia legal code and case law,” Turner said, “juror confusion is not grounds for impeaching a verdict. Juror misconduct would be reason for a new trial. This is not sufficient to grant a new trial. Georgia law is clear that this is unacceptable.”
On the stand, Sullivan maintained her question but hedged on the importance of the answer.
“You’re not sure that anything may have been different? Is that your testimony today?” Turner asked her.
“I’m not sure,” she said.
When asked about the trial, Sullivan told the court she didn’t remember any specifics.
Defense Attorney Katrina Breeding said she thought the hedging was enough to move for a retrial.
“That’s all we need,” she told Simmons. “A ‘maybe.’ That’s not beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Simmons, after listening to more than an hour of criticism of the way he handled the trial, denied the motion to retry. He told the lawyers that it was an aggressively tried case, and he didn’t think the four defense attorneys were sleeping through the trial, ignoring opportunities to object to the way it was tried.
“I’m going to deny the motion and you can take it up with the appeals court,” Simmons said.
Sullivan left the courthouse frowning when she was done testifying, not waiting for the judge’s ruling.
Emmanuel’s mother walked through the double doors into the hallway, sat down and wept.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Trucker’s murder motivated by lust, greed, fantasy
Murder, conspiracy charges against victim’s wife, police officer go to grand juryBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, July 13, 2007
The 49-year-old was shot four times.
He was shot once in the left hand. It bled as he ran, leaving a 200-foot long zig-zagging trail across the parking lot of the truck depot in Forest Park.
Donald Ray Skinner, who had just delivered a truckload of fish, was shot a second time in the thigh. The .40-caliber bullet grazed his flesh. He was shot a third time, and the bullet pierced his liver.
He was shot a fourth time in the right eye.
Clayton County Police found him three hours later, on June 9, lying on his back in the parking lot. He was holding his keys in his right hand, Detective Scott Eskew testified in court, Thursday. The refrigerated tractor trailer he drove for Cool Cargo Carriers, Inc., was still idling and its headlights were still on as the sun was coming up on the scene.
“The blood trail allowed us to visualize Donald Skinner’s last movements,” Eskew said. “He was moving back and forth, back and forth. When he had such a large area in which to flee, all he did was go back and forth in a zig-zag pattern.”
Charles A. Smith, 49, looked down at his jail-issued sandals while the detective testified against him in the probable cause hearing. A military veteran and an Atlanta State Farmers Market Police officer, Smith allegedly told the detectives he didn’t say anything, when he shot Skinner with the state-issued, .40-caliber pistol.
He told detectives he thought he heard Skinner say a single word, before he died.
“He said ‘Why?’ He thought he heard, ‘Why?’ The word ‘why.’ But at that point he was already committed to killing [Donald Skinner],” Eskew said.
According to police and prosecutors, the answer is a mixture of lust, greed and fantasy.
Smith is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, violating his oath to uphold the law and using a gun to commit a felony. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s firearms lab matched the shell casings, at the scene, to the gun issued to Smith.
The victim’s wife, 50-year-old Carolyn Allene Skinner, is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice.
Smith was in a romantic relationship with Donald Skinner’s wife for about eight months before the shooting, Eskew said. She reportedly introduced him to friends and family as her husband, while he introduced her as his fiancé. At some point, the detective said, Allene Skinner and Smith tried to buy a house together.
Allene Skinner was the named beneficiary of Donald Skinner’s $90,000 life insurance policy. Married for 17 years, her daughter, sisters-in-law and mother-in-law characterized her as “evil,” Eskew said. Sitting in the second and third row of the Clayton County courtroom, Donald Skinner’s nine relatives laughed and cheered, when Eskew said that, and were reprimanded by Magistrate Judge Richard Brown.
“Not that she was just evil,” Eskew continued. “She was also a liar.”
Allene Skinner wore an oversized, green jail-issued jumpsuit, during the hearing, and kept her chin raised and thrust forward. She never looked at Smith.
Eskew first saw Allene Skinner at the scene of the shooting, when she drove into the parking lot in a red, Ford F-150 pickup truck registered to a member of Smith’s family and, apparently not noticing the marked patrol car and uniformed officer, walked to the tractor trailer and climbed inside.
When Eskew went to the insurance company to look at the policy on Donald Skinner, he said, Allene Skinner was sitting in the waiting room. Family members told detectives she had previously asked them to help her kill her husband.
Smith, an officer at the Farmers Market for three years and for the Jonesboro Police Department before that, told police she had encouraged him to murder Donald Skinner.
She had, Smith told police, told him a long, involved story about how she was working for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and was “mixed into something. She was mixed up with some important people, some bad people,” Eskew said. Smith told detectives Allene Skinner had told him she was going to get killed by the “important people” and “bad people,” because her husband had found out something and had been talking about it. If she was going to remain safe, she allegedly said, her husband would have to be killed.
Eskew described the story as “a fantasy that only a fool would believe. A fool in love would believe it.”
Malcolm Wells, Allene Skinner’s defense attorney, found the story beyond belief.
“It defies belief, unless we’re not in Clayton County, Ga., but in an episode of ‘Miami Vice,’” Wells said. “That’s the story he gave you? He never mentioned the insurance money or anything? He said he killed [Donald Skinner] to save her from the D.E.A.?”
Smith’s attorney, Joe Roberto, did not deny Smith shot Donald Skinner to death, but questioned the detective about Allene Skinner’s character.
Wells argued, before the judge, that the characterization of Allene Skinner as “evil,” was understandable, given the family’s grief, but unsupported by the facts. He argued the woman’s affair with the police officer wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the charges against her. “One thing is clear, [Smith] killed him for her, not that she asked him too. The only person we know is evil is the ‘trigger man,’” he said.
Allene Skinner, listening to the closing arguments, looked at her lawyer and cried.
The case was bound over to Superior Court, where Smith and Allene Skinner will face possible indictment by a grand jury. A bond hearing is set for Friday at 9 a.m.
Family killed in motel fire remembered
‘I’ve never had to stand in front of this number of coffins before’By Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, June 16, 2007
The five were dressed for a wedding.
Shikita Jones, 32, wore a long, white, wedding dress and a wreath of white flowers on her head. Fred Lee Colston Jr., 26, was dressed in the white tuxedo of a groom. Melvin Jones, 42, and Devon Butler, 11, were wearing tuxedos, and 10-year-old Desha Butler was dressed as a bridesmaid.
The five were dressed for a wedding that never happened. They lay in five white coffins.
The coffins were open at the front of the sanctuary, Friday, end-to-end, covered by white gauze and white flowers. Shikita Jones and Colston were planning to get married in July and planning to move out of the Budget Inn the day the 709 King Road motel burned and the smoke killed them.
Family, friends and officials filed to the front of Divine Faith Ministries International, in Jonesboro, to view the bodies of the family. Some wept openly. Others stared at the bodies, one after another, their faces blank. Women, wearing black dresses, stood at either end of the line of coffins holding out boxes of tissues.
Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas paused, in front of each coffin, and crossed himself. He paused for a moment longer, in front of the dead children, placing two fingers on the edge of each cold white casket.
Officials said Wednesday that they believe the fire was caused by arson. On Friday, during the funeral for the five killed in the suspicious fire, family and friends remembered the lives of the deceased, and expressed feelings of loss, grief and hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“They were a family,” said Juanita Jones, a cousin to Shikita. “Shikita loved Fred, Fred loved Shikita and they both loved these kids ... I pray for them. I pray for the person that done this. I don’t know what they should do [to the arsonist], I really don’t, but as long as we are all in God’s hands, it’s all right.”
The family filed into the sanctuary, following the Reverend Otis White, who recited Psalms into a cordless microphone. “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night seasons,” White read. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.”
Fred Colston’s uncle said his heart was heavy and said he understood grief in a new way. He sang a song about getting ready to go home, in another country, up the ladder, into heaven. “I got a home -- hallelujah! -- over the mountain,” he sang.
White, the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, pointed a hand at the five and said he had never had to stand in front of this number of coffins.
“I’m not going to say God did this,” White said. “I told you before it was the enemy. You can be angry, you can feel frustrated, you can point your finger at the owners of that hotel, you can cast your words at the community, but let me tell you, an enemy has done this.”
To shouts of “amen,” “un huh,” “yes” and “hallelujah,” White preached on the need to take this time to re-examine life, to commit to Jesus and to trust God. “In times like these, it’s time to trust God’s will,” he said.
“Why didn’t God protect them from the fire, like the three Hebrew children we read about? Why? Have you been asking why? I’m just telling you to trust in God.”
He urged those in attendance to make Jesus their Lord and Savior, if they wanted to see the deceased again in heaven.
The white coffins were wheeled outside the Tara Boulevard church, and loaded into five black hearses. The hearses were waiting, open, backed up to the front of the church. Six black limousines were waiting to take the family.
The two Joneses and the two Butlers will be buried in Chicago, where the family is originally from. Colston will be buried in Clayton County.
Detectives looking at murdered girl’s troubled pastBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Sept. 20, 2007
Detectives are considering everyone as a “person of interest,” in the murder of a 17-year-old Jonesboro girl, and are investigating every theory -- from an angry boyfriend to the possibility of a serial killer.
Clayton County Police identified the 17-year-old, who had been killed, badly burned and dumped in a wooded area near Shamrock Lake, as Jennifer Lee Chambers. Her body was found there, partially covered by a multi-colored poncho, on Sept. 5. She was reported missing by her mother nine days later.
Chambers’ mother, Betty Jean May, filed a missing persons report with the Jonesboro Police Department on Sept. 14, saying she had seen the news about the dead girl and was afraid it was her daughter.
Authorties had reported that the dead girl weighed about 100 pounds, was about five-feet, four-inches tall, and had long, straight, brown hair. Chambers weighed 95 pounds, May said, was five-feet, two-inches tall, and had long, straight, dark-black hair.
A check of dental records confirmed the mother’s fears, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensic anthropologists identified the murdered girl as Chambers.
May told the Jonesboro police she had last heard from her daughter on Sept. 1, according to the police report. “She had been living out on her own and would call in to her family every week or so,” Clayton County Deputy Police Chief Tim Robinson said. “I think that was what accounted for the time delay.”
May reported that the 17-year-old had been living in a mobile home park with a Hispanic man known as “Miguel Ramirez.” She described Chambers as a troubled teenager, who had been involved with drugs and prostitution. The 17-year-old was not enrolled in Clayton County high schools, according to the school system’s spokesman.
When May saw the news, she checked with her daughter’s friends and the neighbors in the mobile home park, and none of them had seen Chambers in a few weeks, according to the missing persons report.
Some of them reportedly told the worried mother that Ramirez had recently learned he had contracted HIV from Chambers, who was, allegedly, HIV positive. The man was not living in the mobile home, and neighbors reportedly told May he had gone home to Mexico.
May said she was worried for her daughter’s safety before the disappearance. In the end of August, according to May, Chambers got into an argument with another woman, and the woman had poured lighter fluid over the 17-year-old and tried to set her on fire.
Since the identity of the murdered girl was confirmed by the GBI, Clayton County detectives have spoken with Chambers’ mother, aunt, grandmother and some of her friends. They are working on the teenage girl’s “victimology” — her background and the series of events leading up to her death.
“We’re getting information from a variety of sources and we’re trying to answer those questions about her and her background,” Robinson said.
“She had a troubled youth, but no one deserves to be killed and burned and left in the woods. Even though she may have had a troubled past, she and the family deserve to see her killer brought to justice, and the department is committed to seeing that justice is done,” added Robinson.
Detectives are looking for Chambers’ boyfriend -- “Miguel Ramirez.” The two had reportedly been living together since the beginning of August. They are not saying he is a murder suspect, but do believe he is “a person of interest,” and want to know when he last saw the 17-year-old.
At this point in the investigation, however, “everyone is a person of interest,” the deputy chief said.
The detectives in the crimes against persons division are sending the information from Chambers’ case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavior Science Unit, along with three other cases of young women who have been murdered and dumped, to see if their deaths have enough in common to support a serial killer theory.
“There were some similarities, but we’re wanting someone outside to actually give us an opinion,” Robinson said.
•An unidentified black female was killed, burned and dumped in a wooded area off of Garden Springs Drive, on the northern edge of the county, in 2002.
•In 2005, Nicole Johnson, also known as “Peaches,” was found killed and dumped off of Lee’s Mill Bridge, near Interstate 75.
•In 2006, Latisha Tramble was found killed and burning in a trash bin behind an apartment complex, on the northern end of the county.
Chambers was found two weeks ago.
According to Robinson, all of the women were young, were killed and were dumped, but the theory breaks down in the other details.
Three of women were small, but the fourth was taller. Three of the women were African American, but one was white. Three of the women were reportedly involved in prostitution, but one wasn’t. Three of the bodies were found near “No Dumping” signs, but the fourth was found in a trash bin. One of the women wasn’t burned. There were different causes of death in the four killings.
Three of the bodies were found on the northern end of the county, but the latest one was found on the southeast side.
“Unless our killer lived up there and knew the area up there and then moved down here, I don’t think it makes sense,” Robinson said. “I really don’t think that it’s true, but that’s why we’re getting someone to look at it. We don’t believe it to be the case, but just to be thorough and to make sure, the [four cases] are being submitted to the FBI.”
Anyone with information about Chambers is asked to call Detective Steve Rotella at (770) 477-3624.
Man wanted for murder, armed robbery turns self inBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, March 27, 2007
Alfonso Mason saw his face on television. It was an older picture, so his glasses weren’t as thick and his hair wasn’t as gray, but it was him.
The 56-year-old was in an extended-stay motel in DeKalb County. All he did all day was sleep and watch TV and when he saw his face and saw he was wanted by the Clayton County Police for the murder of a motel maid, the armed robbery of Stockbridge’s Suburban Lodge and the car-jacking of the assistant manager’s car, he decided to turn himself in, Clayton County Police Detective Tom Martin said.
“He said his life was meaningless. He was waking up and watching TV and it was the same thing every day,” Martin said.
Mason walked into the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 2:38 a.m. Sunday, 17 days after he allegedly stabbed a woman to death and held up the 7465 Davidson Parkway motel. He told the deputy on duty who he was and surrendered, Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said.
He had a black revolver in his pocket when he turned himself in, Clayton County Police said, a gun fitting the description of the one used in the robbery.
During a four-hour interview with Martin, Mason described his life from the time he was the vice president of a bank in New Jersey to early in March, when he was planning to kill the 49-year-old cleaning lady at the motel where he had lived for about a year, Martin said.
“This is a man who went from making a six-figure income to using his Home Deport credit card to pawn items he’d just bought,” Martin said.
Mason confessed to the armed robbery immediately, and told police he had planned the robbery because he was having trouble paying his rent. He told Martin he had been a vice president at The Bank of Tokyo until 2000. His severance pay ran out in January 2007 and he began to struggle to afford the $190 weekly rent for the motel room.
Martin said Mason had originally moved to Georgia to be near his daughter, but the two weren’t getting along. Mason had been a resident at the extended-stay motel for long enough that the employees knew who he was and thought he was joking when he said he was robbing them.
They described him to police as a clean man who wasn’t likely to commit a crime.
Mason had a drinking problem, Martin said, and was growing increasingly depressed and frustrated that people making an hourly wage at a cheap motel were kicking him out.
“He just started losing it,” Martin said.
At about 1 p.m. on March 7, he approached the motel assistant manager, 40-year-old Bridgett McLemore, and told her he was having money problems, according to police reports.
“He was having money problems because he couldn’t contact a friend living in New York to send him some money,” McLemore told Clayton Police Officer Michael Medious. He was “basically rambling and not being very coherent,” she said.
Mason then followed McLemore back into the office, according to the police report, pressed a small black revolver into her back and took $1,812 out of the cash register.
Police later found the body of Cynthia Hyman, who worked as a maid at the motel, between a bed and a wall, in a room used for storage. She was stabbed five times in the stomach a few minutes before the robbery, Martin said.
Mason drove off in McLemore’s 2000 silver-colored Pontiac Sunbird and police put him on a wanted list. The motel offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to Mason’s arrest and conviction.
He turned himself in.
“He said he saw his picture on TV and thought he should turn himself in,” Martin said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was preparing to broadcast Mason’s face on a television list of people wanted on the East Coast later this week.
During the interview, Mason also confessed to the murder, Martin said.
Mason is facing charges of murder, armed robbery and car-jacking in Clayton County Superior Court. He is also facing federal prosecution on the armed robbery charges.
Police are still looking for the Pontiac, which was last seen in the parking lot of a DeKalb County strip club, Martin said.
Anyone with information about the vehicle was asked to call Martin at (770) 477-3635.
Cop who confessed to murder has history of failure
His hard-luck life has lawyer asking for leniency in brutal slayingBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Aug. 31, 2007
A sworn police officer and a confessed murderer, Charles Alan Smith has a history of failures leading up to the moment he was charged with killing his girlfriend’s husband.
The 49-year-old saw himself as the “black sheep” of his family and was struggling to become “the good guy,” according to his attorney, who is arguing Smith is different from other murderers.
To prosecutors, however, he is simply a killer, who deserves “nothing less” than a life sentence in prison — his history is irrelevant.
Whether or not Smith’s past warrants a plea for leniency, it shows a police officer descending to murder, and a man desperate to overcome his failures the morning he -- according to his confession -- ambushed a man and shot him to death in a warehouse parking lot before the sun came up.
Born in North Dakota on Oct. 8, 1957, Smith grew up on the east side of Jonesboro. A neighbor still living in the area — someone Smith listed as a reference when applying for a job, but who asked not to be named in this article — described the Smith family as a “model family,” an “average family” and “good church-goers.”
“He would have been any kid in our neighborhood,” the neighbor said. “He was just your average young boy playing football.”
Smith joined the United States Army and finished his high school degree while stationed in Germany. He married a nurse while stationed in Denmark, according to documents obtained by the Clayton News Daily.
A Southern Baptist, Smith married a Catholic girl from Detroit, Therese Rose Dugan, on August 15, 1984. Four years later, with a newborn son, the two returned to the United States, and moved to Georgia, where they had a second son.
After eight years, though, Smith’s life unraveled, and documents show he has been grasping at the loose ends since 1996. Therese Smith became a Jehovah’s Witness, and following the tenets of her new-found faith, stopped celebrating holidays, didn’t accept gifts and didn’t allow the two boys to accept gifts. According to Clayton County Superior Court documents, she criticized her husband’s language, accused him of being an absentee father and pushed him to join the Witnesses.
He said she was a fanatic, and that she had “changed considerably” since their marriage, 12 years earlier. Therese Smith wasn’t working, at the time, and Smith was making $7.75 an hour as a “control specialist” at a freight company.
Disagreeing with his wife over religion and their children, and stressed about finances, Smith left his wife and family in March of 1996. He moved into an extended-stay motel, and filed for divorce, documents show.
Smith’s attorney, Joe Roberto, said the failed marriage devastated Smith’s self worth. Living alone, he spent the next five years losing a series of jobs, and arguing about child support and visitation rights. In 1998, he got a job servicing fire alarms. He worked his way up to $18 an hour, but then the company was sold and he lost his job.
He took another job servicing fire alarms, in 2001, but was fired after one month. He took a another job, that year, installing fire alarms, and was fired after four months.
Late that summer, Smith went to work for Waffle House, cooking food for $6.80 an hour. He worked there for the rest of the year, earning a 20-cent raise. In January 2002, he applied to the Jonesboro Police Department, citing his military experience and a desire to help people. He got the job, and worked as a patrol officer for two and a half years.
According to Jonesboro records, he worked without distinction until he made an inappropriate comment to a female co-worker. In May 2004, Smith made a crude joke, according to the department’s internal investigation, and was reprimanded for visiting a female officer’s apartment while the two were on duty. In June, he made a comment while talking to another female officer, and the woman reported him, saying she felt offended and disrespected.
While being interviewed by then-Chief Robert Thomas, Smith asked if he could keep the incident out of his personnel file by resigning. Thomas told him the investigation would end, and Smith typed out a resignation, effective immediately.
When he applied for a position at the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market, one month later, he listed his reason for leaving as “personal.” He was hired at the farmers’ market and started working for Police Chief Freeman Poole, a former member of the Jonesboro force.
Poole later described Smith as one of his best officers and as someone who was always willing to help. But Smith’s police department file shows a different story.
In the Spring of 2007, he was reprimanded twice for misconduct. He was regularly late to work, according to a written reprimand, showing up late more often than he showed up on time. He left work to run personal errands, while on duty.
His supervisor called him unreliable and disruptive to normal operations. Smith had a supervisory position taken away, and his superior officer “made it very clear that he did not want Charles Smith working on his shift any longer,” according to an internal memo.
At the time, Smith was in the middle of a romantic relationship with a married woman. It was the first relationship he’d had since his divorce. He had met 50-year-old Allene Skinner in a Forest Park truck stop, according to Clayton County Police, and the two were reportedly married in an unofficial ceremony.
Roberto said Skinner, who was legally married to Donald Ray Skinner, a truck driver, “twisted him all around” and made him act like a love-sick 14-year-old. The two had an off-and-on relationship, and Smith wrote Skinner letters, Roberto said, promising he would make their relationship work and dreaming about buying a house with her.
Clayton County detective, Scott Eskew, said the two applied for a home loan, but were denied.
On June 9, Donald Ray Skinner was found dead in the freight company parking lot. His tractor trailer was still running, nothing had been taken and he appeared to have been ambushed, chased and shot four times. He was shot in the eye with a bullet Eskew identified as the type of round — a high quality .40-caliber bullet — used by police.
Seventeen days later, Smith and Skinner were arrested on charges of conspiring to murder and murdering the 49-year-old trucker. Skinner was allegedly motivated by her husband’s $90,000 life insurance policy. Smith was allegedly motivated by love.
Skinner’s attorney, Malcolm Wells, did not return repeated calls, but said in court that his client didn’t conspire to murder her husband of 17 years; that Smith acted alone.
Smith confessed to the crime, telling detectives he had waited in the woods near the truck depot and had shot Donald Ray Skinner four times, listening to him say “Why?” as he lay on the concrete and died.
Eskew described the arrested police officer as “a fool in love.” Roberto agreed with the description, saying “this was love gone woefully awry. I don’t mean to diminish what he did, the taking of life is a crime and a horrible thing, but I want to distinguish him from many of the murders we see in Clayton County,” Roberto said.
Smith is a murderer, according to his lawyer, but he isn’t cold blooded, isn’t a drug dealer and doesn’t have a “nefarious background.” Roberto said he is begging the District Attorney’s office to allow his client to plead guilty to manslaughter.
Donald Ray Skinner’s family asked the district attorney to pursue the death penalty, but they were told the case does not meet the legally required aggravating circumstances.
Executive assistant district attorney, John Turner, said there’s no way, however, that someone who pulled the trigger can be charged with anything less than murder.
“To me, murder is murder,” Turner said. “There’s no defense and there’s no excuse ... To me, it’s worse when a cop does something like that. They know better than that. There’s no excuse.”
Turner is reviewing the case this week, preparing to bring the charges to a grand jury for indictment.
Woman killed after two years of reported domestic violenceBy Daniel Silliman
Clayton News Daily, Sept. 18, 2007
Police found the 36-year-old woman lying face down in the kitchen, surrounded by a pool of blood.
There was a bloody kitchen knife in the sink, and the woman, with multiple stab wounds through the back of her black T-shirt, didn’t respond to the officer’s question: “Can you hear me?”
Ani Hacardyan Rose, a German native living in Ellenwood, died on the floor of her kitchen a little before 9:30 p.m., Sunday. Ani Rose called 911 at 9:12 p.m., Clayton County Police said. She told the 911 operator she had a protective order against her husband, but he was in the 5371 Pecan Grove home and the couple was fighting.
Demetrio Patricio Rose, a 38-year-old native of Panama, called 911 a few minutes later, and told the operator he needed an ambulance, because he had stabbed his wife.
When Officer S.R. Malette knocked on the door, Demetrio Rose answered and said, “My wife needs an ambulance.”
He was wearing gray sweat pants, and the pants were wet around his ankles, Malette wrote in the police report. There was blood on the steps leading to the kitchen.
Demetrio said again, “I need an ambulance,” and Malette said, “Who is stabbed?” according to the report.
“The male stated, ‘My wife!’ I asked, ‘Who stabbed her?’ The male stated, ‘Me, I did!’” Malette reported.
The two Rose children, 14-year-old and 9-year-old girls, had locked themselves in a bedroom in the back of the house, during the fight.
Demetrio Rose was arrested on charges of murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children. He was taken to the Clayton County Jail.
Police dispatchers couldn’t find a record of a protective order, Sunday night. Ani Rose, in the middle of divorce proceedings against her husband, filed for the order in May, but It was dismissed by Clayton County Magistrate Judge Bobby Brown in June. Brown cited a lack of sufficient evidence.
Attorney, Leon Hicks, who shares offices with Ani Rose’s lawyer, Joseph Baker, said he didn’t understand why the judge didn’t err on the side of caution, a ruling which might have saved the 36-year-old mother’s life. “This is just a horrible decision on his part,” Hicks said.
At the June hearing, Ani Rose and her lawyers gave the court photographs, showing bruised arms, Hicks said. She testified under oath that those were her bruised arms, in the photos; that Demetrio Rose had hurt her, and that the photos were true and accurate representations of the facts.
“She had evidence in this case,” Hicks said. “There was no evidence to the contrary.”
Brown could not be reached for comment, Monday.
Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker said the case was dismissed because of a lack of sufficient evidence, and that the case can’t be judged in retrospect.
Walker received an award, last week, for the work she’s done in improving the county’s magistrate court response to domestic violence and protective orders.
Karen Geiger, staff attorney for the Family Violence Project at Georgia Legal Services, said Walker’s magistrate court is held up as an example around the state. “I know she’s very committed to always doing the right thing for victims and filling in some of the gaps that we see in some of the court systems around here,” Geiger said. “[Clayton County] has a more well-thought-out, and consistent, system.”
Rose was appealing the dismissal of the protective order, and Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield was scheduled to hear the case next month.
“This was the fastest we could get any kind of hearing at all,” said Esther Hart, a paralegal for Baker. “Ani called several times, saying she was concerned because he was so verbally abusive. We knew this was going to happen.”
Police were called out to the Rose’s Ellenwood home in April, when the court served them with mediation papers as part of the divorce proceedings, according to a police report. Demetrio Rose allegedly got angry, when the papers arrived at the house, and the couple got into a verbal dispute. The Police officer advised Ani Rose to get a protective order against her husband.
Ani Rose had previously reported her husband to police in August 2006. Her husband had taken their children’s social security cards, passports and birth certificates, she said, and she was afraid he was going to take them out of the country.
“I don’t know about his plans,” Ani Rose wrote on a police statement form. “He has not been reasonable. He is screaming and cursing at me in front of the children and calling me names.”
In the statement form, Ani Rose lists three incidents of domestic violence, dating back to 2005. First, he threw a cell phone at her, she said, then another time, he threw a ring of keys at her, hitting her in the head. In the third incident, he grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground, Ani Rose wrote.
She told him she would report him to the police — next time. “His answer was, ‘I will finish what I started next time,’” Rose wrote in the handwritten report.
The report was filed more than a year before she was stabbed to death. The Clayton County Police officer receiving the report told Ani Rose to file a protective order.
There was no protective order, when police arrived at the couple’s home, on Sunday night, and saw bloody foot prints in the kitchen, dining room, hallway and up and down the stairs.