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Gunshot victim dies from complications
Suspect now facing murder charge

COVINGTON - Newton County recorded its first murder of the New Year on Friday morning following the death of 38-year-old Dennis Rogers, who was shot in the back of the head during an armed robbery earlier this week.

According to Lt. Bill Watterson, spokesman for the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Rogers died of complications resulting from the gunshot wound.

Charges against the suspect in the slaying, Courtney Thornton, 25, have now been upgraded to murder, Watterson said. Thornton has remained at large since the shooting occurred in the early morning hours Tuesday.

About 4 a.m., Deputy Larry Wigington was in his patrol car at the Kroger shopping center on Salem Road when he was approached by a man who said he had just been robbed and that a passenger in his car had been shot.

Wigington called for additional deputies, who responded to the area where the incident took place on Gum Tree Trail.

Upon arriving at the scene, deputies discovered a green 2001 Jaguar S-Type sedan with a bullet hole in the passenger's side window.

They then discovered Rogers sitting in the passenger's seat slumped over. He was taken by air ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center where he died Friday morning.

A third man who had been in the car told authorities the three of them were in the vehicle on Gum Tree Trail when Thornton shot Rogers with a handgun. He said the shooting was unprovoked. He said he then struggled with Thornton and managed to escape and flag down the deputy.

Authorities ask anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of Thornton to call the NCSO at 678-625-1403. Tips can be given to the NCSO anonymously at 678-625-5007 or via the Web at www.newtonsheriffga.org by clicking on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information.

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.