A Superior Court judge on Tuesday refused to lower the $1 million bond for one of three suspects charged in the brutal Jan. 4, 2016, homicides of a grandmother, son and granddaughter in Columbus’ Upatoi area.
Judge Gil McBride said he would let bonds totaling $1 million stand for Raheam Daniel Gibson, who with Rufus Lanard Burks and Jervarceay Tapley is charged in the slayings of Gloria Short, 54; her son, Caleb Short, 17; and her granddaughter, Gianna Lindsey, 10.
Gloria Short’s husband, Robert Short, a nurse, found the bodies in his 3057 Bentley Drive around 8 a.m. that Monday when he got home from working the night shift at a local hospital.
Authorities said the grandmother and granddaughter were beaten and stabbed repeatedly, and the son was bludgeoned to death. The apparent motive was robbery, though police said the suspects took only clothes, video games, about $600 in coins and two vehicles later found abandoned.
Gibson’s defense attorney William Kendrick told McBride his client is autistic and about to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine his mental competency. That should take about three months, he said.
In stating he would leave Gibson’s bonds as they are, McBride said he will re-evaluate the case if attorneys make no further progress by the time Gibson’s evaluation is done.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker told McBride prosecutors have most of the evidence they need, but are waiting on results from DNA tests, which they expected to have in 45 to 60 days.
The bonds for the charges each suspect faces are $300,000 on each of three murder counts, $30,000 each on two counts of auto theft and one of burglary, and $10,000 for using a knife to commit a felony.
The victims’ family reacts
Among eight relatives who attended Gibson’s hearing Tuesday, Shameika Averett, Gloria Short’s daughter, Caleb’s sister and Gianna’s mother, told McBride lowering Gibson’s bond would be unfair and not in the community’s interest.
Regardless of whether Gibson actively joined in killing the three victims, he was present the entire time and knew what was happening, she said: “He was there. He was aware of what was going on. … Raheam was present, and I understand that makes you an accessory.”
She added relatives just spent their first Thanksgiving and Christmas without their slain loved ones, and lowering Gibson’s bonds now would cause them “great pain, great suffering.”
“We have suffered enough,” she said.
Whitaker said “nothing material has changed” in the case since McBride set the $1 million bonds back on May 20, so nothing warranted altering them.
If released from jail, Gibson may run from the law rather than face life in prison for murder, Whitaker said: “There is a flight risk because of what the defendant is facing.”
He noted also that Gibson was on probation for burglary when the homicides occurred.
Kendrick countered that unlike his codefendants, Gibson has cooperated with investigators, and voluntarily gave police information on the case after his mother learned he was involved.
He said police can’t prove Gibson ever entered the Shorts’ home.
Whitaker argued Gibson shouldn’t expect to be rewarded for doing what any law-abiding resident would do to help police solve a murder case, and whether Gibson joined in the crime is not in dispute. Gibson was “fully, completely a part of this,” the prosecutor said.
Gibson’s mother stood with her son during Tuesday’s hearing, but did not address the court.
Investigators last year said she contacted them upon hearing from Gibson’s sister that her son knew about the triple homicide. Gibson’s information helped them break the case, Kendrick said during the May 20 bond hearing.
Much of that hearing focused on the criteria the judge must consider when weighing bonds. Georgia law says a judge may grant bond if the defendant:
• Poses no significant risk of fleeing … or failing to appear in court when required.
• Poses no significant threat or danger to any person … or to any property in the community.
• Poses no significant risk of committing any felony pending trial.
• Poses no significant risk of intimidating witnesses....
Tapley, 18, has been jailed since Jan. 14; Gibson, 20, since Jan. 12; and Burks, 16, since Feb. 3.
Police account of the crime
Detectives testifying in Burks’ Feb. 8 preliminary hearing in Columbus Recorder’s Court gave this account of the crime:
They said the three suspects traveled the 20 miles to Bentley Drive from Tapley’s Calhoun Drive home on a mountain bike and a “moped” or motorized bicycle, taking turns on each.
The three teens later ditched the bike and moped and stole two vehicles from the Shorts’ home. Gibson afterward directed police to where the three hid the bike in the woods near the Georgia driver’s license bureau off Macon Road, and to where they left the moped near 8280 McKee Road, but neither was there.
On the same day Robert Short Sr. found his wife, son and granddaughter slain, police recovered his stolen green GMC Envoy and silver Volkswagen Beetle, which had been abandoned in Columbus’ Oakland Park area off South Lumpkin Road, near where Tapley lived.
Police got their first break in the investigation when Gibson’s mother called them Jan. 6 to report her son was involved. Under questioning, Gibson told detectives he did not enter the Shorts’ home, but waited outside as the other two went in after Caleb opened the door for them.
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 after hearing of his sister’s homicide.
Officers later found some of Caleb’s clothing in Tapley’s Calhoun Drive home. Caleb’s father identified some of it, and detectives recognized some from a Shaw High School video in which Caleb wore the clothes.
Among the loot taken from the Shorts were a PlayStation 4 console, games that included Grand Theft Auto, $600 in coins stashed in a box made for storing wine, an Adidas jacket, camouflage pants, polo shirts, and numerous pairs of Nike sneakers, including Air Jordans, a detective testified.
Police found Nike sneakers, an LG cellphone and a motorcycle helmet while searching Burks’ 1652 Edgechester Ave. home, police said.