Robert Joseph Cantelli pleaded not guilty this morning in Recorder's Court to murder and firearm possession charges in connection with Thursday's shooting death of Joshua Hill.
Cantelli spoke briefly in the nearly 30-minute hearing in front of Judge Michael Joyner. He was represented by a public defender on the charges. Joyner denied bond.
Cantelli's father, girlfriend and Columbus Police detective Robert Oliver told the court what they said they knew about the events that led to Hill's death.
Cantelli, 32, and his girlfriend, Almonnie Ladd, picked up Hill in Cantelli's Toyota 4-runner and went to the Shell station at 12th Avenue and 18th Street in Columbus for cigarettes, according to testimony. Ladd was driving when Cantelli took "a short black shotgun" and shot Hill in the head shortly after leaving the gas station.
Cantelli then told Ladd to keep driving. She drove into Alabama, where she bailed out of the vehicle along U.S. 431.
As she was running, Ladd heard shots, Oliver testified.
Asked why Cantelli shot Hill, Ladd said, "I have no clue."
Cantelli then drove the vehicle to his father's home near Seale, Oliver said. The father and son had been estranged for about four years.
"He wasn't in his right mind when he came to the house," Robert E. Cantelli said of his son.
Cantelli followed his son to the SUV, where the father saw the gun and Hill's body in the floorboard of the backseat, Robert E. Cantelli testified.
At that point, Robert Joseph Cantelli, an Army combat veteran, began chasing a helicopter that was flying overhead.
"He was hollering some colonel's name and going after the helicopter," his father said.
There was heavy security by the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office in the courtroom. Twice during the hearing, people from the audience shouted.