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Jury finds Covington man guilty of murdering landscaper

COVINGTON -- After more than a week of witness testimony and arguments from both sides, a Newton County jury found a Covington man guilty of the 2009 murder of a Conyers landscaper.

Pablo Fernando Maldonado, now 25, of 1738-B Kirkland Road, Covington, was found guilty on all charges: malice murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, concealing the death of another and forgery in the second degree. He is facing the death penalty.

He was convicted of the murder of 55-year-old Timothy Clements, a Conyers landscaper who prosecutors said was beaten with a metal baseball bat and hammer, tied up with a telephone cord and a grocery bag placed over his head. Clements' body was thrown into Snapping Shoals Creek near Ga. Highways 212 and 81 in June 2009 during a robbery. Clements left behind a wife, Barbara, and two children.

Lithonia residents Christian Caldwell, who was 17 at the time, and his pregnant girlfriend, Brittney Beasley, who was 18, also were arrested in connection with the murder. Caldwell was charged with murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, armed robbery, concealing of a death, false imprisonment and theft by taking, while Beasley was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

A 16-year-old female juvenile, who was Maldonado's girlfriend, also was arrested in connection with the murder and has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder but has yet to be sentenced.

They all took the stand against Maldonado during his trial, which began Aug. 22.

State District Attorney Layla Zon argued that Maldonado was the ringleader of the plot to rob and murder Clements, while defense attorney Stephen Yekel, with the Georgia Public Defender's office, said his client was not guilty of all of the charges, including the murder charge.

In addition to witness accounts, Zon used previously taped testimony, crime scene photos and testimony from law enforcement officers against Maldonado.

The state presented evidence from Aug. 22 until Wednesday, and the defense presented its case on Thursday; closing arguments took place Friday morning before Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson charged the jury. It returned the verdict later that afternoon.

The sentencing phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning in Newton County Superior Court.