COVINGTON -- Three Newton County men have entered guilty pleas and another is awaiting trial in connection with the 2011 murder of a Covington man.
Newton County residents Sam Dumas Dawkins, 48; Robert Vincent Lambert, 38; and Michael Scott West, 35, all recently entered pleas in the Walton County Superior Court of Judge Samuel Ozburn.
Originally, the three were charged with malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and concealing the death of another; Dawkins also originally was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and theft by receiving stolen property.
Lambert pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and concealing the death of another; he was sentenced to 20 years, the first 10 to be served in confinement.
Dawkins pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine, concealing the death of another, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and theft by receiving; he also received a sentence of 20 years, 10 to be served in confinement.
West pleaded guilty to four counts of making false statements in a matter within a political subdivision and also received a sentence of 20 years to serve 10.
Originally, Tonya Wilson Owenby, 34, also was charged during the investigation with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, trafficking methamphetamine or amphetamine, theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony; however, her charges were dismissed after Dawkins accepted responsibility for the drugs at their residence.
The trial for fellow Newton County resident Chad Ashley Allen, 35, is scheduled for June 24 in Walton County Superior Court in connection with the murder. He is charged with malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and concealing the death of another.
"Mr. Allen's case will be prosecuted in Walton County because that is where the state believes venue will be proper. I cannot comment further on the specific evidence for venue," said Layla Zon, district attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.
Originally, the men were arrested by the Newton County Sheriff's Office.
The body of Robert Andrew "Drew" Nichols, 38, who most recently lived in Covington, was found in the woods off Clegg Farm Road in Social Circle by a deer hunter in October 2011. Walton County authorities began the death investigation and later authorities determined that Nichols was killed in Newton County, on Dawkins' property, and then dumped in Walton County, according to initial reports from the NCSO. West later recanted his story that Dawkins was involved in the murder, but he was still held in connection with the incident.
News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this article.