Double murderer returns to Columbus seeking new trial

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comApril 17, 2014 

The wreckage James Louis Brock left in his wake is about to resurface.

Convicted March 7, 2011, and sentenced to life in prison for gunning down his daughters’ mother Tyesha McNair and her friend Terence Clark, Brock is back in the Muscogee County Jail, having been moved from prison for a new trial hearing before Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters.

That hearing has been postponed so the public defender’s office, which now is assigned to handle his appeal, can have time to review nine volumes of transcripts from the bench trial Peters held three years ago. The hearing likely will be reset for July or August, attorneys said. That delay means Brock, now 28, may be returned to prison until the new date is set.

A new prosecutor will have to take the case as well. Senior Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore, who won Brock’s conviction in 2011, is leaving office to join the Columbus law firm of Hatcher, Stubbs, Land, Hollis and Rothschild.

Brock was found guilty of four counts of murder, four counts of aggravated assault, two of using a firearm to commit a felony and one count each of being a convicted felon with a firearm and receiving stolen property.

When next he appears in court, his victims’ families again will face dark memories of Oct. 13, 2009, when at 3:50 a.m. gunfire erupted at Crystal Court apartments, where McNair had been packing to move home to Topeka, Kan., where her mother lived.

She and Clark, both 21, had become close friends, each having two children. Clark had twin boys about the age of McNair’s daughter Jae’Briona, born March 27, 2009. McNair’s other daughter, Koriona, was 2½ when her mother was killed. The children were not at the apartment that night.

Because of a restraining order resulting from Brock’s continuing abuse, he was not supposed to have been near McNair, but he answered McNair’s cellphone that night when her mother called. McNair was in the shower, Brock told her mother, Tonya Boyd.

Boyd was shocked, as she knew he wasn’t supposed to be there, and she repeatedly had tried to persuade her daughter to move home to get away from him. “As he started talking to me, every hair on my body just stood up,” Boyd later recalled. “It was like a chilling conversation. … I just had this feeling after talking to him and my daughter that I was never going to see her alive again.”

That foreboding proved prescient.

Police responding to the shooting found Clark in the apartments’ parking lot, shot in the chest and head. Inside they found McNair curled up on the floor, her hands covering her face. She was shot seven times, Boyd said.

Instead of awaiting a happy homecoming back in Topeka, Boyd had to travel to Columbus to collect her late daughter’s possessions, and her two granddaughters. McNair was buried in Topeka.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence say her death illustrates the risks an abused woman faces as she tries to escape, and what can happen if she returns. Twice McNair left town to get away from Brock, and twice returned when he promised to correct his conduct.

In October 2009, it appeared she finally was going home for good and taking Brock’s children with her. Those who work with domestic violence victims say that’s especially dangerous, because an abusive partner may bid his victim good riddance, but not his children.

Each year, one of every three women murdered in the United States is killed by an intimate partner. Here in Columbus, McNair remains a prime example, advocates say.

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