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Man gets death penalty in 2008 murder

COVINGTON -- A New Jersey man found guilty Friday in the grisly murder of a Newton County man was sentenced to death Tuesday evening in Newton County Superior Court.

Despite indications earlier in the day that one juror was holding out against the death penalty, the jury of seven women and five men returned a unanimous verdict of death at about 7 p.m.

Rodney R. Young was found guilty on all five counts he faced -- malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and burglary -- in connection with the bludgeoning and stabbing death of 28-year-old Gary Lamar Jones in 2008.

Judge Samuel Ozburn presided over the trial prosecuted by District Attorney Layla Zon and Assistant District Attorney Melanie Bell with attorneys Joseph Romond and Teri Thompson of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender representing the defendant.

Jones, an employee of Red Lobster restaurant in Conyers and an active member of Springfield Baptist Church, was found dead in his home on March 30, 2008, by his mother Doris Jones who had recently moved from New Jersey to Georgia to live with her son at 65 Benedict Drive.

Evidence soon pointed to Young with whom the mother had had a relationship. Young was arrested in his hometown of Bridgeton, N.J., less than a week after the slaying. He was extradited and had been awaiting trial at the Newton County Detention Center.

Faced with overwhelming evidence, the defense conceded that Young committed the crime, but maintained he is mentally retarded and, according to attorney Thompson who made the closing argument for the defense, "possessed no level of sophistication, no planning," in connection with the crime that included battering with a hammer and inflicting multiple stab wounds on the victim.

In his charge to the jury, Ozburn instructed them on each charge that they could find the defendant guilty, not guilty or guilty but mentally retarded. The latter charge would have meant that Young would be remanded to the Georgia Department of Corrections which would see to it that mental health treatment was provided to him. The guilty verdict meant that the trial moved into the sentencing phase Monday.