Three young men charged in the horrific 2016 triple-homicide of a grandmother, son and granddaughter in Columbus’ Upatoi neighborhood will be tried together for murder, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Defense attorneys for two of the suspects had sought separate trials in the slayings of Gloria Short, 54; her son Caleb Short, 17; and granddaughter Gianna Lindsey, 10; found dead in the Shorts’ 3057 Bentley Drive home on Jan. 4, 2016.
The attorneys had argued that evidence against codefendants would so prejudice jurors against their clients the suspects could not get a fair trial, and that their defense strategies could be “antagonistic,” meaning the defendants could blame each other to escape guilt themselves.
Those motions came from Jennifer Curry, who represents Rufus Lanard Burks, 17, and from attorneys Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick, who represent Raheam Daniel Gibson, 21.
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Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas, who represents Jervarceay Tyrie Tapley, 19, did not move for a separate trial.
During a hearing Friday, District Attorney Julia Slater argued defense attorneys had not proved severing the trials was necessary, as they needed a “clear showing” that trying the defendants together would so prejudice the jury as to deny them justice.
Any confusion over whether evidence applies to one defendant but not another can be cured through the judge’s instructions to the jury, she said, adding that separate trials would be expensive and duplicative.
Slater and Curry said Superior Court Judge Gil McBride denied the severance motions Wednesday. The judge did not issue a formal ruling, but informed attorneys of his decision via email, they said.
McBride has the trial set for Oct. 30.
Authorities have said the three homicides were particularly brutal, and the evidence will be graphic.
The deaths were reported about 8 a.m. that first Monday of 2016 when nurse Robert Short Sr. got home from working the night shift at a local hospital and found his wife, son and granddaughter slain.
Police said Gloria Short and her granddaughter were beaten and stabbed to death, and the son fatally bludgeoned. Adding to public outrage was evidence the killers gained little from the heinous crime: A PlayStation 4 console along with video games, $600 in coins that were stashed in a box made for storing wine, an Adidas jacket, camouflage pants, polo shirts, and numerous pairs of Nike sneakers, including Air Jordans, were among the goods taken.
Also shocking was the age of each defendant: Burks at the time was only 15; Tapley 17; and Gibson 19.
Police said Tapley knew the Shorts because he lived with Gloria Short’s brother, his grandmother’s boyfriend, at 4125 Calhoun Drive. That brother, Robert Averett, 68, died of a heart attack Jan. 6, 2016, after hearing of his sister’s homicide.
Officers later found some of Caleb’s clothing in Tapley’s home. Caleb’s father identified some of it, and detectives recognized some from a Shaw High School video in which Caleb wore the clothes.
Police said they found stolen Nike sneakers, an LG cell phone and a motorcycle helmet while searching Burks’ 1652 Edgechester Ave. home.
The defendants’ 30-count indictment charges them with 10 counts each: three counts of malice or intentional murder; three counts of felony murder for homicides involving the felony of aggravated assault; two counts of auto theft; and one each of kidnapping and first-degree burglary.