COVINGTON - A Newton County jury has found Courtney Courtmentez Thornton guilty of the New Year's Day 2008 murder of 38-year-old Dennis Rogers.
Thornton was convicted on all counts of the indictment, which included malice murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and felony theft by receiving. Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon said Thornton was sentenced to life plus 40 years and prohibited from having contact with Edwin Wynn, who witnessed the murder.
"This verdict will provide some closure to both Mr. Wynn and the family of Mr. Rogers," Zon said. "Mr. Thornton took Mr. Rogers' life without any hesitation. It is doubtful he would have allowed Mr. Wynn to survive after robbing him. Fortunately for Mr. Wynn, he was able to escape this situation and was able to share the truth with the jury in this trial. The jury listened, and justice was served."
Authorities first learned of the incident when Newton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Larry Wigington was approached by Wynn while in his patrol unit at the Kroger shopping center on Salem Road at about 4 a.m. Jan. 1, 2008. Wynn told him he had just been robbed and that a passenger in his car had been shot on Gum Tree Trail. Wigington went to the scene and found a green luxury sedan with Rogers sitting in the front seat slumped over.
"The evidence at trial showed that on Jan. 1, 2008, Mr. Thornton was supposed to sell marijuana to Mr. Wynn. Mr. Rogers was the facilitator of this transaction," Zon said. "Mr. Wynn drove to Gum Tree Trail to Thornton's residence with Mr. Rogers in the front passenger seat. Mr. Thornton got into the back seat of Wynn's vehicle (and) moments later he shot Rogers in the back of the head and robbed Wynn."
Zon said a struggle ensued inside the vehicle over the gun. Wynn was ultimately able to gain control of the gun after Thornton fired off another shot inside the car.
"Wynn fired the last shot out of the driver's window in order to empty the gun. He then pulled the trigger again and the gun dry-fired," she said. "He then tossed the gun out of the driver's window."
Both men exited the vehicle and a physical altercation took place between the two before Wynn was able to flee and flag down the deputy, she said.
Thornton was arrested by the U.S. Marshal's Office in DeKalb County four days later.
Further evidence revealed the firearm used in the murder was stolen from a vehicle in Rockdale County in 2005. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections Web site, Thornton was previously convicted for sale of marijuana in Rockdale County, which is where his mother was living at the time.
Zon said Thornton, 26, will have to serve 50 years (30 years on his life sentence and the entire 20-year sentence on the armed robbery) before the possibility of parole.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.