Man gets 10 years for hiding death

A Phenix City man pleaded guilty Friday to his role in the 2002 slaying of a Columbus nightclub bouncer.

Michael Bryan Garnett entered guilty pleas for concealing the death of 22-year-old Zachariah Morgan Wages and robbery. Superior Court Judge Doug Pullen, the third judge to handle the more than 5-year-old case, sentenced Garnett to 10 years in prison for concealing the death and 20 years probation for the armed robbery charge.

Garnett has been in the Muscogee County Jail since he turned himself in a week after the Oct. 9, 2002, killing. He will receive credit for time served.

Christopher Lyle Jones was sentenced last August to 30 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, robbery and second-degree arson in connection with Wages' death.

Columbus defense attorney Mark Shellnutt has represented Garnett for more than five years.

"He has done everything that was asked of him, though he couldn't change what happened that night," Shellnutt said. "He has taken every action since then to show his remorse."

District Attorney Gray Conger said Garnett's cooperation was critical to getting Jones' plea.

Wages was killed after leaving his job at Coach's Corner Bar, which was located in the Gentian Corner shopping center. Wages was last seen with Jones and Garnett.

Jones admitted during his plea hearing to shooting Wages once in the head with a rifle. Conger said Jones had a grudge against Wages because the bouncer had dated an ex-girlfriend of his.

Jones and Garnett took Wages' body and truck to a wooded area off U.S. 80 near the Talbot County line, Jones testified last year. The truck was burned and Wages' body was cut into three pieces with an ax. Shallow graves were then dug with the ax less than a mile from the truck, and the body parts buried hundreds of feet apart, Jones told the court.

Wages' 1982 Toyota pickup was later found by a search party organized by Wages' father, Ricky Wages, off Macon Road near Upatoi Creek.

Garnett did not know Jones was going to kill Wages, Shellnutt said.

"He had no way of knowing that," Shellnutt said. "He simply got wrapped up in a situation not of his own making. The problem is when he found himself in that situation, he cooperated with Chris some because he was in fear of his own life."

Shortly after the murder Garnett, approached police and the district attorney with information.

"He originally asked for immunity," Conger said. "He was never charged with the murder and was very cooperative. He denied prior knowledge of the murder, but admitted to helping cover it up."