Two plead not guilty in beating of homeless man

Tonya Webster, 37, and Larue Heyward, 29, pleaded not guilty in Columbus Recorder’s Court Wednesday morning to aggravated battery.

The two are charged with attacking a 45-year-old homeless man and leaving him in such poor condition he will likely spend the rest of his life in a nursing home.

Their cases were bound over to Muscogee Superior Court. Each was given a $50,000 bond. The alleged attack took place on Oct. 29.

“There was a verbal confrontation,” said Columbus Police Detective Lance Deaton.

According to Deaton’s testimony, Webster picked up a brick and hit the homeless man in the head. After he fell to the ground, Heyward kicked him multiple times in the head and face.

The homeless man made it back to the Second Avenue “tent community” where he was staying. Another resident noticed he needed help. The homeless man was transported to the hospital.

“There was swelling of the brain and surgery was needed,” Deaton said. “You can see the scars on his head. He is not paralyzed but is flaccid on one side of his body. He can’t walk and needs help eating.”

The homeless man is in a local nursing home.

It was while investigating another case in May that Deaton became aware of the incident. Deaton said two people told police that Webster and Heyward told them about the beating and their roles.

The victim picked Webster and Heyward out of a photographic lineup.

“The two had left town soon after the incident.” Deaton said.

They were recently found in Kansas City, Mo., and brought back to Columbus.

In court, Heyward was asked if he could recall the encounter. He said he couldn’t.

The homeless man was not in court Wednesday but Deaton said he would appear if there is a jury trial.

Aggravated battery is charged when a victim suffers permanent disabling or disfiguring injuries. It carries a prison term of one to 20 years.

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