Double homicide defendants' case sent to Superior Court

HAMILTON — The four defendants accused of a Waverly Hall double homicide pretended to need gas money when they knocked on Jerry Church's door June 28 before forcing their way inside to beat Church and his new wife to death in their search for alcohol and vehicles, an investigator said Wednesday.

The plan was hatched earlier that night after the two men and two boys had already stolen some beer from one of Church's properties, Harris County Sheriff's Sgt. Gary Lewis testified in Harris County Magistrate Court. The stories differed slightly depending on the teller, though it appeared the group decided to get more alcohol by approaching the home of Church, 61, and his wife Sherlene Robinson, 57, knock on the door and then hit whoever answered.

According to the story of Dereck Cox, 19, he, Richard Strickland Jr., 16, and Kevin Thomas McKay, 21, stepped up to Church's front porch on Red Oak Drive while Gage Bryant, 13, waited within eyeshot. The story was that the group had broken down nearby and needed some gas money. Church said he didn't have any, Lewis testified.

"Mr. Strickland struck Mr. Church in the face," the sergeant said. "Mr. McKay rushed Mr. Church."

Cox then followed inside, shut the door and proceeded to the kitchen in his search for alcohol.

McKay's story, however, was different in that respect. He told Lewis during an interview shortly after his arrest that the plan was hatched by Strickland and supported by Cox. Instead of Cox searching for alcohol, Lewis said McKay told him he was the one who went into the kitchen while Cox began choking Robinson and Strickland was beating Church.

When McKay returned from the bedroom in his search for cash, Cox asked him if he should snap Robinson's neck.

"McKay said, 'Do something with her,' " Lewis testified.

Strickland told Lewis that McKay gave a knife to Cox, who then stabbed Church in the neck. McKay told Lewis that he used the wall to steady himself when he stomped on his chest several times before Strickland took a stereo speaker and bashed in Church's face and head.

The group then left in one vehicle before realizing the key to another was on the keyring, returning to get the other, Lewis said.

One witness told Lewis that Bryant and Strickland approached him about opening lockboxes before the bodies were discovered June 28. They took them to Church's house that Saturday morning, but when he saw the bodies in the living room, he left, Lewis said.

Another witness told Lewis that Bryant offered Sunday morning to buy his motorcycle. When he asked where Bryant had gotten $900, he replied that it came from the sale of his mother's car.

Lewis learned the car had been sold a year ago.

McKay was arrested June 28 after deputies were called to the scene of an accident on Ga. 18 near the 7-mile marker. Witnesses said they saw a man carrying a bottle of vodka walk away from a gold 2004 Chrysler Sebring and into the woods.Deputies found a man, later determined to be McKay, walking along Salem Road.

Later, Lewis learned that Cox had been arrested for DUI in Troup County about 20 minutes before McKay's arrest. He had been driving a truck owned by Church, the sergeant said.

When deputies went to Church and Robinson's home to tell him about the stolen Sebring, they discovered the bodies.

The two teens were linked to the slayings shortly afterward.

On Wednesday, Magistrate Court Judge Charlotte Brashears bound all the cases to Harris County Superior Court. The defendants are being held without bond.