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Conyers man found guilty in 2009 Covington murder

COVINGTON — A Newton County jury found a Conyers man guilty of a 2009 felony murder in Covington.

After 6 p.m. Wednesday, a jury found Roland Lebaron Wilson Jr., 26 of 2914 Chesterfield Way in Conyers, guilty on two counts of felony murder and two counts of aggravated battery. They deliberated about three hours.

The Conyers resident charged in the Covington murder took the stand in his own defense during the second day of trial earlier in the day Wednesday at the Newton County Courthouse with Newton County Superior Court Judge Eugene M. Benton presiding.

Wilson said that he did not hit his friend, William Okafor, in the head with a brick, which resulted in Okafor’s death in late July 2009. He had previously invoked his right to remain silent and chose Wednesday to testify in court.

Okafor’s mother, Carletta Sharp, testified Tuesday and again Wednesday that she saw Wilson hit her then-21-year-old son in the head with a large landscaping brick near the porch of her home at 85 Fairclift Drive during the late evening of Sunday, July 26, 2009. Additionally, Okafor’s sister, Saronda Reid, testified Tuesday that her father identified Wilson to her on the phone as the person who beat her brother in the presence of three other unidentified accomplices.

During Wilson’s testimony Wednesday, he admitted to coming to Okafor’s home that evening with three other men and getting into an argument with him.

Wilson said he wanted to talk to Okafor about getting paid for work the previous Friday, so he could pay his friend Alfred Bryant for a video game system that was stolen from his home on Friday evening. Wilson suspected Okafor or another friend, Quinada Sims, who worked for Carletta Sharp’s cleaning business with the two, of stealing the game system.

Wilson said Bryant and their two friends picked him up at his home because he didn’t have a vehicle to drive, and they went to Okafor’s residence after being invited earlier in the day.

He testified that Okafor came outside to talk to them for about 45 minutes, and near the end of the conversation, it became heated when Wilson accused him of stealing the game system.

“He got aggressive,” Wilson said. “There was a lot of hostility.”

He alleged that Okafor threatened to beat him if he didn’t get out of his face, so Wilson told him to do so. After the two threw punches at each other, Wilson alleged that Okafor rushed him with his head down and ended up slamming his own head into the side of the house, causing him to fall face down.

As Wilson was waiting for Okafor to get up, Wilson alleged that he saw Bryant slam what he later identified as a brick up against the back of Okafor’s head twice, causing the brick to break into two pieces.

“There was no plan to do anything to him; I just wanted to talk to him,” said Wilson, who later added that he told the three men in the car that he suspected Okafor of stealing a game system from his home the previous Friday.

About that time, Wilson said he saw Carletta Sharp at the door, and he bent down to touch Okafor’s head to check on him, but he claimed that Bryant tugged on his shoulder to tell him to go with him.

“I left, I ran,” Wilson admitted. “I was afraid.”

Later, Wilson testified that he didn’t intend to harm Okafor and didn’t know he would die from his injuries, although he was laying stiff when he left the scene.

“I didn’t know he was going to die, I didn’t know the severity of his injuries,” Wilson said. “I feel terrible. … Knowing these people and this happening … I feel bad about it. … I didn’t know he wasn’t ever going to get up.”

Looking back, Wilson said he should’ve called police when he noticed his game system was stolen.

“I didn’t want him to go to jail for something petty,” Wilson said.

Earlier in the trial Wednesday, Newton County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Dana Maddox, who was the lead investigator on the case, said he attempted to interview Bryant on Aug. 6, 2009, at his apartment, but Bryant was babysitting, so he decided to come back later. On Aug. 9, he discovered Bryant was no longer in Georgia.

No charges have been brought against Bryant.

Defense attorney Anthony Carter questioned Maddox about some missteps in his investigation, including not having officers secure the crime scene, not handling a log of who was in and out of the crime scene on the evening of the incident, failing to take “meticulous notes” on the case and not taking recorded statements from all witnesses.

Maddox, who had not received all of his investigative training at the time, admitted that he did not do those things. However, he did say to Assistant District Attorney Anne Kurtz that Carletta Sharp had no question that Wilson committed the crime.

He is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced next week.