Upatoi triple murder suspects plead not guilty, denied bond in first court appearance

Neither Gibson nor Tapley testified in court Friday.

A judge denied bond to two suspects in the Upatoi triple murder in their first court appearance.

Friday at 2 p.m., 19-year-old Raheam Gibson and 17-year-old Jervarceay Tapley had a preliminary hearing at the Muscogee County Recorder’s Court. The two were arrested on January 12. They plead not guilty to three counts of murder, burglary, two counts of theft by taking a vehicle and possession of a knife during a crime.

Gianna Lindsey and her grandmother Gloria Short were found dead with multiple stab wounds, police said in court. Short’s son, Caleb, was also found dead in their Upatoi home back on January 4.

A judge denied bond to two suspects in the Upatoi triple murder in their first court appearance.
A judge denied bond to two suspects in the Upatoi triple murder in their first court appearance.

On  January 6, Gibson’s mother contacted Columbus Police regarding her son’s possible involvement in the crime. While undergoing questioning, Gibson admitted to stealing a vehicle from the Bentley Drive home, but claimed he was outside when the murder happened. His girlfriend who was also questioned said he was the lookout man. CPD states Tapley and another person were inside the house at the time. However, Tapley maintains that he was at his residence on Calhoun Drive all day the day before the murder and day of murder. Investigators say they found blood in Tapley’s shower and clothing belonging to Caleb Short thrown over a fence at Tapley’s residence. That clothing was depicted in a photograph taken from Caleb’s tribute video by his high school and his father, Robert and other family members verified the clothing.

Police also say they took an Oldsmobile belonging to Tapley’s grandmother into the station for processing.

Police also found evidence at Gibson’s house. However, they did not release any further details about any clues. That evidence has been turned over to the crime lab in the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Testimony shows that the individuals walked from Gibson’s home over to Bentley Drive, roughly 20 miles. It’s noted that Tapley’s phone records show his last call was with Caleb Short. When CPD looked through Tapley’s phone, he said the phone was going through an update, but a forensic investigation of the phone showed information had been deleted from it. They added during his questioning, he refused to give a DNA sample the first time he was brought in because he thought it was not necessary since he hadn’t been to the Short home since June of 2015.

Both Gibson and Tapley pleaded not guilty to murder, theft by taking (motor vehicle), burglary, and possession of a knife during a crime. Neither testified in court Friday. The case will be bound over to superior court.

The attorneys for both suspects claim their innocence. Gibson’s attorneys William Kendrick and Mark Shelnutt say this case affects all families involved and this kind of case shakes you out of your role in the criminal justice system and brings the humanity out of you. They also urge the public to not paint the suspects with a wide brush. “You got two pictures plastered on the headlines and everybody is thinking that those are the two guys that did this,” Shelnutt said. “The evidence that’s even come out so far and we expect to come out is very different between the two.”

Tapley’s attorney, Shevon Thomas says that most of the information provided in the hearing was based on Gibson’s statements, but they are in a waiting game until all evidence is reviewed. “I find it a little curious that there was some evidence that was so readily given like we found blood in his bathroom. Ok, where was the blood found? Can’t tell you. It’s an ongoing investigation.”

Family of the victims and suspects were unable to comment today, but News 3 reached out to a family friend of the Short family. Tacara Hemingway was in the courtroom and she described it as sad and intense. “Just devastating,” Hemingway said. “These guys are so young and being accused right now of taking the lives of these people is just terrible. Especially with him having such close relations to the family.”

Marshall McGill is the Kingdom Metropolitan Worship Center. He says he knew Gianna Lindsey and a scholarship has been set up in her name. Five scholarships will be given a year to five girls.

 

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