From the files: Police announce the arrest of two men in the Short family triple homicide
One of the suspects in the triple homicide of Gloria Short, Caleb Short and Gianna Lindsey was home at the time of the brutal attacks, according to Jervarceay Tapley's mother, Rachel Tapley.
Jervarceay Tapley, 17, and Raheam Gibson, 19, were charged Tuesday with three counts of homicide, burglary, theft by taking two motor vehicles and possessing a knife during the commission of a crime.
Tapley's mother was among those at Wednesday's news conference where Police Chief Ricky Boren discussed the arrests.
Rachel Tapley was accompanied by her attorney, Shevon Thomas, when she spoke to a Ledger-Enquirer reporter.
She said Robert Averett, Gloria's Short's brother, was the live-in boyfriend of Tapley's grandmother, Margaret Williams. Tapley lived with the couple, she said.
Averett died last Wednesday from cardiac arrest after hearing the news of the triple homicide, according to Muscogee Coroner Buddy Bryan.
Rachel Tapley claimed Wednesday that Tapley had nothing to do with the crime and was at home with Averett and Williams when the homicides occurred. She said he found out after receiving a news alert on his phone.
"He had a close relationship with the whole family," she said. "They used to go out there and pick him up, bring him over there to the house. Him and Caleb were game freaks. They used to stay up all night playing a video game. They took him down to the Iron Bowl, Auburn championship and everything."
But she said Tapley hasn't seen Caleb Short in over a year.
Thomas, Tapley's attorney, spoke to local media after the press conference. He said he's still waiting to hear exactly of what his client is being accused.
"We don't know what we're defending," he said. "You heard the press conference that the chief gave. In his words, there's still a lot of dots that they're connecting. I don't know what those dots are no more than you guys. Basically, what I heard is, 'We have two people arrested. And that's it. We're investigating."
Thomas said he met Tapley for the first time Wednesday morning to make sure he was okay. They spent about 15 minutes together, he said, but didn't discuss the details of the case.
"He understands that he's been pressed with charges, that's it," Thomas said. "My next step is to wait. As Chief Boren said, there's a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday."
He questioned why Boren would hold the press conference on Wednesday and not release more information. "They could have done that on Friday or at least give this kid his day in court," he said. "I'm a little concerned about that."
"Three innocent lives were taken, we do understand that," he said. "But, at the same time, I also believe that the public has an interest in making sure that the right person, or persons, take responsbility."
"So this early-onset, 'We're not going to tell you guys what we have and why we did what we did yet,' I'm a little concerned," he said.
Rachel Tapley said her son went to the funeral home for visitation, as well as his Averett's funeral. He didn't attend the funeral for the three victims because he already was in custody, his mom said.
"He had gave them DNA and everything," Rachel Tapley said. "They (police) had already been out there three times to pick him up."
Jervarceay Tapley has a heart problem, his mom said, and he had to be taken to St. Francis hospital a week prior to the slayings because he fell unconscious.
The press conference also attracted friends of the family and some people who were just interested in the case. Among those in attendance was the Rev. Mashall McGill, senior pastor of Kingdom Metropolitan Worship Centre on Airport Thruway. Ten-year-old Gianna Lindsey was a member of the church's dance team.
"I'm very relieved," McGill said of Boren's announcement. "I believe the mayor and chief of police have done a wonderful job as it relates to bringing some things to a closure and allowing this family to start the healing and grieving process properly, also allowing the citizens to have some peace that these people are behind bars and they're on top of it."
Yet, he's surprised by the revelation that it was someone associated with the family who allegedly committed such a heinous crime.
"The culture that we live in today, there's no value for life, regardless who it is - family or non-family members," McGill said. "And that's because they don't have value for themselves or self-esteem."
He said many young men are growing up with no vision for the future and that has to change.
"We have visions for our churches. We have visions for our community, for companies, corporations," he said. "But I don't see any vision for these young men."
The Rev. Albert Suggs, pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church, said he didn't know anyone involved in the case. He just attended the press conference out of concern.
"I feel somewhat relieved a little bit knowing that they do have some people in custody," he said. "But I'm truly shocked that someone would do that to their family."