Crime

Court hearing: Victims of triple homicide suffered extreme trauma to the head, stab wounds

By Tim Chitwood

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com

Raw Video: Two suspects in triple homicide appear in court Friday afternoon

The two suspects in the Jan. 4 triple homicide appeared in court Friday afternoon on multiple charges, including three counts of murder. This is an excerpt from the testimony of Detective Alan Malone of the Columbus Police Department.
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The two suspects in the Jan. 4 triple homicide appeared in court Friday afternoon on multiple charges, including three counts of murder. This is an excerpt from the testimony of Detective Alan Malone of the Columbus Police Department.

During a 35-minute hearing before a packed courtroom Friday, detectives testified one of the two teens charged in the brutal Jan. 4 homicides of three people told police the pair walked more than 20 miles to the victims’ Bentley Drive home in northeast Columbus, where they stole clothing and jewelry.

Detective Alan Malone told Recorder’s Court Judge Mary Buckner that investigators recovered clothing and jewelry stolen from 3057 Bentley Drive while searching the home of suspect Jervarceay Tapley, 17. Some of the clothing was thrown over the northeast corner of a fence outside the 4125 Calhoun Drive home Tapley shared with his grandmother and her boyfriend, Malone said.

Tapley and 19-year-old Raheam Gibson each faces three counts of murder in the deaths of Gloria Short, 54; her son Caleb Short, 17; and granddaughter Gianna Lindsey, 10.

Tapley’s grandmother Margaret Williams was the girlfriend of Robert Averett, 68, Gloria’s brother. Averett died of a heart attack Jan. 6 after hearing of his sister’s homicide.

Malone said Tapley and Caleb Short were friends, and cellphone records showed Tapley called Caleb the day before Gloria’s husband, Robert Short Sr., found the three bodies upon returning home about 8 a.m. from working the night shift at a local hospital.

In Tapley’s bedroom, police found clothes and jewelry the victims’ family identified as belonging to the Shorts, Malone said. Detectives also collected samples of blood found in a shower at Tapley’s home, the officer said.

He said each of the three victims sustained “extreme blunt-force trauma to the head,” and that Gloria and Gianna also had “multiple stab wounds.”

On Jan. 6, Gibson’s mother called 911 to report her daughter had told her Gibson was involved in the homicides, Malone said. The suspect cooperated with police when questioned, and implicated Tapley in the crime, the officer said.

Gibson told police a third individual he did not know also went into the Bentley Drive home that night with Tapley, while he waited outside, said Malone, who later testified that Gibson admitted taking one of two vehicles stolen from the home.

Those automobiles, a green GMC Envoy and silver Volkswagen Beetle, were found abandoned in Columbus’ Oakland Park neighborhood off South Lumpkin Road.

Malone said the clothing found thrown over the fence at Tapley’s home appeared to match the outfit Caleb was depicted wearing in a tribute video produced at Shaw High School, where he was a junior. Robert Short Sr. identified the clothing as having been taken from Caleb’s bedroom, the detective said.

The evidence police seized has been sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab for analysis, Malone said.

Under questioning by Gibson’s attorney William Kendrick, the detective said police have yet to get a report on the victims’ autopsies, and he refused to divulge what weapons were employed in the homicides, though he said investigators have what they believe to be the ones used.

Repeatedly telling Buckner police still were investigating and seeking a third suspect, Malone refused to divulge details of the crime.

He would not say what evidence police found while searching Gibson’s 2605 Jones Ave. home, nor disclose what route the suspects took from south Columbus to walk to Bentley Drive. He said only that investigators have surveillance video as evidence of the path taken.

Tapley’s attorney Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas expressed doubts the suspects walked so far, a distance Malone estimated at 21 to 24 miles. The detective said investigators still were probing that part of Gibson’s account.

Along with the stolen vehicles, police also seized and processed an Oldsmobile Alero belonging to Tapley’s grandmother, Malone said. That vehicle later was released back to the owner, he said.

Malone refused to say whether police found fingerprints placing the suspects at the crime scene or inside the stolen vehicles. Such evidence still is being processed, he said.

Both suspects pleaded not guilty Friday. Malone said Tapley told police he hadn’t visited the Shorts’ Bentley Drive home since June of last year.

Tapley otherwise has not cooperated with officers, refusing to submit a DNA sample until investigators got a warrant for it. Gibson’s attorneys said their client has cooperated, and police would not be as far along in their investigation if he hadn’t.

Typically the next step in the case is that prosecutors present their evidence to a Muscogee County grand jury for indictment, followed by pretrial hearings regarding what evidence is admissible in court. If the suspects are not indicted in 90 days, they become eligible for a bond hearing during which a judge may set bonds allowing their release from jail.

Thomas said he may file motions seeking a bond for his client before then.

Currently both are being held without bond, Gibson in the Harris County Jail, and Tapley in the Muscogee County Jail.

Besides three counts of murder, each suspect faces two counts of auto theft and one each of burglary and using a knife to commit a crime.

Though Gibson told police he never went inside Bentley Drive, his arrest report states, “Gibson entered the residence of 3057 Bentley Drive with the intent of stealing items.”

One of his two defense attorneys, J. Mark Shelnutt, said after the hearing that his client was little more than a bystander unaware of his cohorts’ intent. Shelnutt asked that the public withhold judgment until more evidence is revealed.

District Attorney Julia Slater answered a few questions after a Wednesday morning press conference regarding the homicides of Gloria Short, Caleb Short and Gianna Lindsey.

The courtroom adjacent to the county jail had heavy security during Friday’s hearing, with more than 20 sheriff’s deputies stationed there. Deputies also kept the victims’ and suspects’ families separated, and formed a phalanx outside as Gibson was led from a side door to a detective’s car to be transported back to Harris County.

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