Michael Jason Registe, the double-homicide suspect who internationally became a “most wanted” fugitive after the 2007 execution-style killings of 21-year-old Randy Newton Jr. and 20-year-old Bryan Kilgore, is set to plead guilty Friday in Muscogee Superior Court, according to court records.
A court docket has Registe scheduled to plead at 2 p.m. Friday in Judge William Rumer’s courtroom on the Columbus Government Center’s 10th floor.
Though court officials here said the case is to be settled then, Registe’s Atlanta attorney today would not confirm that: “We’re working on it, but nothing has been confirmed,” said Manny Arora.
Because of conflicts involving authorities here who previously worked on the case, Registe’s prosecution is assigned to Laura Murphree of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. She was not immediately available for comment.
Registe faces two counts of murder, two of using a firearm to commit a crime, and one count each of armed robbery, attempted armed robbery and being a convicted felon with a firearm. His trial had been set to start Monday.
Should his plea go through Friday, it will bring to an end a six-year saga that began at 9:23 p.m. July 20, 2007, when police called to a shooting at the 3911 Steam Mill Road Cross Creek Apartments found Kilgore in the driver’s seat of a Chevrolet Blazer and Newton on the ground outside the passenger’s side door. Both had been shot in the head.
Police used cell-phone records to identify the suspect and set off an international manhunt for Registe, who had fled the country. The case gained widespread media attention when Registe made the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list and was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted.” The case continued to make headlines after his capture, twice going to the Georgia Supreme Court before it could be set for trial.
On Aug. 27, 2008, authorities on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten of the Netherlands Antilles took Registe into custody. But he was not extradited back to the United States until July 23, 2009, with Dutch officials surrendering him on the condition prosecutors here not seek the death penalty.
On Aug. 4, 2009, Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson became Registe’s defense attorney, but not for long. Before he went into private practice in July 2008, Jackson since August 2000 had worked in the district attorney’s office, and as a prosecutor had signed three search warrant applications seeking Registe’s cell phone records.
Prosecutors argued Jackson had a conflict, and on Sept. 25, 2009, then-Judge Doug Pullen agreed and ordered Jackson to leave the case. Jackson appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld Pullen’s decision on July 12, 2010.
Jackson was replaced by Arora, who on Jan. 7, 2011, filed a motion to suppress the cell phone data police used to identify and track Registe. Superior Court Judge John Allen rejected Arora's motion a year later, ruling that detectives had acquired only the telephone numbers Registe called, not the content of private conversations. Those numbers belonged to Cricket Communications, not to Registe, Allen wrote.
Arora appealed that decision to the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld Allen’s ruling in November 2012.
2008 Interview: Bryan Kilgore's Father
2008 Interview: Randy Newton's Family