A Columbus man convicted of murder for fatally shooting his girlfriend in the face in 1997 was back in Muscogee Superior Court to get a new sentence Tuesday.
George Bellamy had been sentenced to life without parole for the Aug. 20, 1997, homicide of 20-year-old Colleen Nicole Carney, found dead near the front door of her mobile home at Lot 20-B, 527 Farr Road.
Police found Bellamy, then 24, sitting beside her body.
He first told police an unknown assailant had shot Carney outside the mobile home before she stumbled back in. But detectives noted the evidence showed Carney was shot on a sofa inside, then moved to the trailer door.
Bellamy, who after the shooting had tried to hide his pistol under the trailer, then told a different story:
He said he was lying on the sofa when Carney came in with the gun, sat atop him and started playing with the weapon, pointing it at his head. When he tried to wrest it away from her, the weapon discharged, striking her in the jaw, he told police.
But during Bellamy’s trial in September 1998, a medical examiner testified the gun was fired down at Carney, not up. The angle showed the bullet fired from a gun 14 to 18 inches away traveled downward from her left jaw through her neck, the examiner said. Also Carney’s hands had no gunpowder residue to show she was holding the weapon when it fired, investigators said.
After three hours’ deliberation, the jury of nine men and three women found Bellamy guilty of murder on Sept. 16, 1998. Then-Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston sentenced Bellamy to life without parole, based on his previous convictions for theft by receiving stolen property, theft by deception, criminal damage to property and possession of cocaine.
Bellamy later appealed his conviction to the Georgia Supreme Court, which upheld it on March 6, 2000.
The high court’s decision reiterated some of the trial testimony from Carney’s friends, who said the couple had a violent relationship, and Carney had told them she was pregnant and did not want another baby, because she already had an 8-month-old to care for.
One friend reported overhearing Bellamy tell Carney he would kill her if she had an abortion.
Though the Supreme Court in 2000 upheld Bellamy’s conviction, it later found an error in his sentencing.
Bellamy challenged his sentence in 2013, and this past April the court ruled he could not have been sentenced to life without parole under the state law that was in effect in 1998.
The court said state law then allowed a sentence of life without parole for a repeat offender, but the statute specifically excluded the offense of malice murder — meaning deliberate or intentional murder — as an offense to which that sentence could be applied. Based on what was then the existing law, the Supreme Court vacated Bellamy’s sentence and sent the case back to Columbus for resentencing.
So on Tuesday, Bellamy was brought before Muscogee Superior Court Judge William Rumer, who acknowledged the error in Bellamy’s initial sentencing, and changed it to life with the possibility of parole. Besides malice murder, Bellamy was convicted of using a firearm to commit a crime and being a convicted felon with a firearm. Each of those counts added five more years to his sentence.
Authorities were unsure how Bellamy’s new sentence would affect the timing of his eligibility for parole. He has been serving his life sentence in the state prison system since Jan. 27, 1999, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.