Upatoi murder suspects appear in court

COLUMBUS, Ga. —  Three murder suspects accused of killing a Upatoi grandmother, her son and her 10-year-old granddaughter appeared in superior court Friday morning.

The judge’s decided to wait to rule on whether these three defendants will be tried together or separately.

The judge’s ruling will be made next Wednesday at noon.19-year-old Jervarceay Tapley, 21-year-old Raheam Gibson and 17-year-old Rufus Burks are charged with murder, kidnapping, theft by taking motor vehicle and burglary
among other charges.

The trio is accused of breaking into Gloria Short’s home back in 2016 and killing her, her teenage son Caleb Short, and her granddaughter Gianna Lindsey.

The defense attorneys for Gibson and Burks argued the three men should be tried separately. The state urged the judge to try all three men together.

Burks and Gibson were in court for the entire hearing Friday. Tapley left after his attorney, Shevon Thomas, asked for his client to be excused.

This is what Rufus Burks’ defense attorney had to say when asked if only one person committed the murders.

“Absolutely. That person wasn’t in court today,” Defense Attorney Jennifer Curry said. “Every witness statement, every piece of evidence, DNA, fingerprints everything we have up to this point distances Mr. Burks from this horrific crime.”

The defense attorney for Gibson agreed with Curry.

“I’m not the jury so I’m not finding anybody guilty,” Mark Shelnutt said. “I’m just saying for example they’ve got evidence of DNA, they’ve got evidence of clothes they’ve got evidence that tends to be used against other defendants that wouldn’t be used in our case. If his case were separate, you’re not left with very much at all.”

Jury selection is set to begin Oct. 16 while opening statements are slated to start Oct. 30.

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