COVINGTON - Pastor Eric Lee Sr. of Springfield Baptist Church announced Tuesday afternoon that a $10,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murder of Gary Lamar Jones late Sunday.
"This is the place where Gary Jones spent his last peaceful hours on Earth before something horrific happened," Lee said in making the announcement in the sanctuary of the Old Salem Road church in Rockdale County. "This community is not the kind of place where someone should go to church on Sunday and be a victim of a homicide before Monday."
Jones lived with his mother at 65 Benedict Drive in Covington. She notified the Newton County Sheriff's Office about 11 p.m. Sunday that she had arrived home from work to find her son dead.
Both the NCSO and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are investigating what they have termed "obviously a homicide," but are releasing few details of what they believe happened.
With the offer of the reward, the church members are hoping that someone will contact authorities and give them information that will lead to a resolution of the case.
Flanking Lee was a contingent of staff, ministers and deacons of Springfield Baptist Church as he announced the church is donating the first $5,000 of the reward and that an additional $5,000 was given by Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb County.
"Part of the family's healing will be knowing that those responsible are being dealt with by the laws of Newton County, Georgia and America," Lee said.
Jones and his family are members of the church, moving with it when it relocated from a smaller facility on Crowell Road. Jones sang in the church choir and Lee pointed to his robe and recalled that the 28-year-old victim had just worn it Easter Sunday.
Lee said he wanted the community to be assured that Jones was a great man of "image, integrity and character."
Jones had previously worked for a short time as a prison guard for the Georgia Department of Corrections, but at the time of his death, Jones was working at the Red Lobster restaurant in Conyers.
"He was a fantastic guy, always in a good mood and a smile on his lips ... he will be missed," a co-worker said of Jones.
Lee told the gathering of news media and law enforcement officials that he had called the press conference to remind those "who still fear God and who have information" what Scripture says about evil. "We are to 'hate what is evil; cling to what is good.' (Romans 12:21)
"Newton and Rockdale counties are a safe place to live, but they won't be unless we step forward at times like this," Jones said in making his appeal. "Please help us bring to justice those responsible for this wicked event in our community."
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the NCSO at 678-625-1429 or the GBI at 800-597-8477.
Tips can also be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or through the Web at www.newtonsheriffga.org by clicking on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at email@example.com.