Superior Court jury convicts Lonnie Jacob Ragan in shotgun slaying of sister in law

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 7, 2014 

A Muscogee County Superior Court jury deliberated for about an hour and a half Friday before finding Lonnie Jacob Ragan guilty in the murder of his sister-in-law Holly Hearn.

Ragan faces the possibility of life in prison without parole when Judge Gil McBride sentences him next week.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley stood in front of Ragan during her closing argument and began to scream as she picked apart Ragan's defense in the 2011 shotgun slaying of Hearn.

The jury responded, convicting him of two counts of murder, three counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He faces the potential of 20 years on each of the aggravated assault convictions.

The jury found Ragan not guilty on four explosive charges, one aggravated assault charge, one criminal attempt to commit a felony and one possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Part of Ragan's defense was that he acted in self defense as Holly Hearn came out of her Billings Court home with a pistol. The jury did not buy it.

"To the defense's self-defense claim, there is only one response," Cooley said, her voice rising and cracking. "As you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?"

Ragan, who has a history of mental illness and a prior conviction for a stabbing, just sat with his attorney Bill Mason. Ragan is facing 14 counts in connection with Hearn's death and the possibility of life in prison if he is convicted by the six-man, six-woman Muscogee County Superior Court jury. The counts range from murder to explosive charges. Ragan also shot Ryan Hearn, Holly's husband, in the back during the altercation.

Cooley, her voice breaking as she closed the argument, asked the six-man, win-woman Superior Court jury to bring back a sweeping guilty verdict.

"Convict on all charges," Cooley screamed before she sat down.

The jury began deliberations at 3:25 p.m.

As demonstrative as Colley was, Mason took a much different approach in his final argument. He was low-key and calculating as he built a defense in a case where he conceded many of the facts the state put into evidence.

At one point, Mason picked up the shotgun used to kill Holly Hearn and told the jury: "It wasn't until gun met pistol. That is what this case is about."

The dispute started with Brad Acker, who called Holly Hearn his best friend. Acker and Ragan had an altercation at the Shell Station on Warm Springs Road, a short distance from the house.

In testimony, Ragan was in a child custody dispute with his then wife when he went to the Hearn home on Aug. 26, 2011. He had a short shotgun and was wearing a harness device that the state claims contained a bomb.

Mason, speaking to the jury in his closing argument, called it a tragedy.

"Just a tragedy," Mason said, "but the law does not support a conviction."

He then pointed to Holly Hearn's decision to go in the house with Ragan in the front yard and come back with a gun.

"Unfortunately she created a situation that caused her death," Mason said.

The prosecutor wasn't buying it as she pointed out that Ryan Hearn was shot in the back and their son covered his body and begged Ragan not to shoot his father.

"There are children in that home," Cooley said. "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?. A mother went to get gun to protect her child. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?"

Near the conclusion of her argument, Cooley said "Are you kidding me?" more than a dozen times.

Mason did concede one of the 14 charges in his close. He told the jury to convict Ragan on that charge because he is a felon and he had a gun.

Mason argued that the four explosive charges should not result in a guilty verdict. He claims there was no testimony that the three bombs Columbus Police detectives found in Harris County were never brought in to Muscogee County by Ragan.

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