Video: Attorney for Rufus Lanard Burks asks public to withhold judgment until more evidence disclosed
Shirts, pants, a jacket, several pairs of Nike sneakers, a box of coins, six video games and a game console were the goods stolen during the horrific Jan. 4 homicides of Gloria Short, her son and 10-year-old granddaughter, a Columbus police detective testified Monday.
Detective Alan Malone was the only witness in the preliminary hearing for 15-year-old Rufus Lanard Burks, the third teen charged with three counts of murder in the beating deaths of Short, 54; Caleb Short, 17; and Gianna Lindsey, 10, in the Shorts’ home at 3057 Bentley Drive in Upatoi.
Each victim had severe blunt-force head trauma, and an autopsy showed Gloria and Gianna also had multiple stab wounds.
Represented by Columbus attorney Jennifer Curry, Burks pleaded not guilty before Recorder’s Court Judge Mary Bucker sent the case on to Muscogee Superior Court. Burks, whom authorities have charged as an adult, will be held without bond.
His codefendants are Jervarceay Tapley, 17, and Raheam Gibson, 19, who also are being held without bond on identical charges.
Though police earlier said Gibson told them the three walked to Bentley Drive from Calhoun Drive, a distance of 20 miles or more, Malone testified Tuesday that they traveled on a mountain bike and a “moped” or motorized bicycle, taking turns on each.
They later ditched the bike and moped and stole two vehicles from the Shorts’ home, Malone said. Gibson later directed police to where the three hid the bike in the woods near the Georgia driver’s license bureau off Macon Road, and to where they left the moped near 8280 McKee Road, the officer said, but neither was there.
On the same day Robert Short Sr. found his wife, son and granddaughter slain, police recovered his stolen green GMC Envoy and silver Volkswagen Beetle, which had been abandoned in Columbus’ Oakland Park area off South Lumpkin Road.
Police got their first break in the investigation when Gibson’s mother called them Jan. 6 to report that her son was involved. Under questioning, Gibson told detectives he did not enter the Shorts’ home, but waited outside as the other two went in.
Caleb opened the door for them, Malone said.
Police said Tapley knew the Shorts because he lived with Gloria’s brother, his grandmother’s boyfriend, at 4125 Calhoun Drive.
That brother, Robert Averett, 68, died of a heart attack Jan. 6 after hearing of his sister’s homicide.
Investigators have said the three teens went to the Bentley Drive home the night of Jan. 3 with the intent to commit theft.
Officers later found some of Caleb’s clothing in Tapley’s Calhoun Drive home. Caleb’s father identified some of it, and detectives recognized some from a Shaw High School video in which Caleb wore the clothes.
Among the loot taken from the Shorts were a PlayStation 4 console, games that included “Grand Theft Auto,” $600 in coins that were stashed in a box made for storing wine, an Adidas jacket, camouflage pants, polo shirts, and numerous pairs of Nike sneakers, including Air Jordans, Malone testified.
Police found Nike sneakers, an LG cell phone and a motorcycle helmet while searching Burks’ 1652 Edgechester Ave. home, the detective said.
He said witnesses in the area told police they’d seen Burks on the moped, and an informant told officers Burks had a PlayStation 4, Nike Air Jordans and the “Grand Theft Auto” video game.
Investigators were able to identify Burks by showing Gibson a photographic lineup. Gibson, who knew Burks only by the nickname “Quez,” then told police Burks was the suspect who accompanied him and Tapley to Bentley Drive, Malone said.
Gibson similarly identified Tapley, whom he knew by the nickname “Weeda,” the detective said.
Malone said an informant told officers of seeing Burks on McKee Road on Jan. 3, identifying him by his motorcycle helmet.
Detectives charged Burks in the homicides Feb. 2, when his parents brought him to the downtown Public Safety Center to surrender.
Besides three counts of murder, each suspect is charged also with two counts of auto theft and one each of burglary and using a knife to commit a crime.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Gloria Short’s daughter Shameika Averett — Gianna’s mother and Caleb’s sister — asked for prayers:
“Pray for us. It’s going to be a long process…. That was half our family that was destroyed.”
As she spoke to reporters outside the courtroom, she wore on her neck a black scarf that belonged to her mother, and held her daughter’s photo in her hands.
“My brother, I see him everywhere I go,” she said. “The healing process is very hard, because I walk past my daughter’s room every single day, and I’m reminded that we have to get justice for her, my mom and my brother….
“I have my daughter’s picture just to remind me that she’s at peace and that I do this for her. Wearing my mother’s scarf reminds me that she’s at peace and I do this for her, and my brother the same.”
She was relieved to know detectives had all three suspects in custody, she said: “I want to commend — as we have been doing — the Columbus Police Department for apprehending these suspects as quickly as possible…. We just want to say we’re happy, couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in terms of what we got today. We’re happy about that.”
But sitting through the court testimony was difficult, she said:
“As far as being in there and seeing the suspect, that’s hard because it takes you back to the beginning, because you hear some things about what happened to your loved ones that you don’t want to hear, and unfortunately you have to sit through that…. That’s the hardest part for us.”
Burks’ attorney asked the public to withhold judgment until more evidence is disclosed, as under the law Burks is presumed innocent.
Curry also asked that people respect the privacy of the families involved, and “wait for all the evidence to come to light.”
Typically the next step in the case is that prosecutors present their evidence to a Muscogee grand jury for indictment, before it goes to trial, though defense attorneys meanwhile may ask a superior court judge to set bonds so their clients may be released from jail.
Often in murder cases those bonds are set so high that defendants can’t make them.
Alva James-Johnson contributed to this story.