Police release name of 15-year-old boy charged in triple homicide

Sarah Robinson

Rufus Lanard Barks
Rufus Lanard Barks

Rufus Lanard Burks of Columbus is the 15-year-old boy that was charged Wednesday in connection with the Jan. 4 triple homicide in Upatoi, according to an arrest report from the Columbus Police Department.

Accompanied by Columbus attorney Jennifer Curry, Burks surrendered to investigators at the Columbus Public Safety Center at 6:53 p.m. Wednesday, when he was arrested on warrants charging him with three counts of murder, two counts of auto theft and one count each of burglary and using a knife to commit a crime. He’s being held in the Crisp County Youth Detention Center in Cordele, Ga.

Burks was to have a preliminary hearing this morning in Columbus Recorder’s Court, but it has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Monday.

Authorities said Burks is the "final" subject wanted in the brutal beatings of Gloria Short, 56, Caleb Short, 17, and Gianna Lindsey, 10. The 15-year-old suspect joins Jervarceay Tapley, 17, and Raheam Gibson, 19, who were arrested in connection with their deaths about a week after the Jan. 4 incident.

According to Burks’ arrest report, he will turn 16 on Feb. 24,

His defense attorney lamented that false rumors and other erroneous information about the case is spreading on social media, a development police also have criticized, saying such gossip complicates their investigation.

“On behalf of my client and his family, we ask that the public refrain from drawing conclusions and passing judgment until the close of the investigation,” Curry said. “I would like people to be mindful of what they say on social media, for the sake of my client and the victims’ family.”

The homicides

Police were called to the Shorts’ 3057 Bentley Drive home around 8 a.m. that Monday after Robert Short, Gloria Short’s husband, found his wife, son and granddaughter dead in his home.

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.

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

Tapley knew the Short family because his grandmother lived with Gloria Short’s brother, Robert Averett. Averett died of a heart attack Jan. 6 after hearing of his sister’s homicide.

During an initial hearing for Tapley and Gibson, police said that while searching the residence Tapley shared with his grandmother and her boyfriend, officers found clothing and jewelry stolen from the Bentley Drive home

Pieces of Caleb’s clothing were thrown over the northeast corner of a fence outside the 4125 Calhoun Drive residence, police testified.

Gibson told police a third teen he did not know went with him and Tapley to the Shorts that night, officers said. Gibson claimed he only waited outside, but admitted taking one of two vehicles stolen from the home.

In this Ledger-Enquirer file video, Denicia Sumbry, the niece of Gloria Short, speaks during the Celebration of Life service for Gloria Short, Caleb Short and Gianna Lindsey.

The Muscogee County School District confirmed that Burks, whose address police listed as 1652 Edgechester Ave., attended Spencer High School from Feb. 24, 2015, to Thursday.

Tapley was a transfer from Valley High School in Alabama. He was enrolled as an junior at Spencer from Dec. 7 to Jan. 12, said Valerie Fuller, the Muscogee County School District Director of Communications.

Fuller said Gibson was not a Muscogee County student. He last attended ninth grade at Carver High School from Sept. 13, 2012, to Oct. 2, 2012, and he went to Spencer from Aug. 21, 2012, to Sept. 4, 2012, she said.

— Sarah is a crime & safety reporter at The Ledger-Enquirer. You can contact her on Twitter at @SarahR_92.