Death penalty may be sought in alleged Warner Robins murder for hire

jburk@macon.comJune 1, 2011 

PERRY -- The death penalty may be sought in the alleged murder-for-hire killing of a Warner Robins woman, following an indictment by a Houston County grand jury Tuesday.

The three men accused of the alleged conspiracy in the Feb. 8 murder of Joni Clements, including the victim’s husband, were indicted in Superior Court on 14 counts, plus seven aggravating circumstances.

District Attorney George Hartwig said the aggravating circumstances allow him to seek the death penalty if he so chooses.

“I haven’t made a decision on this case whether I’m going to or not,” Hartwig said. “This is the first one since I’ve taken office that warrants these aggravating circumstances, so I’m at least leaving it on the table.”

James “Eddy” Clements, 55, a sheet metal mechanic for the 559th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, is accused of hiring Richard Grant Sybert, 30, of Warner Robins, to kill his wife. Robert Sybert, 53, of Warner Robins, is accused of being the getaway driver and providing his son the gun for the murder, which took place at the Clementses’ home.

In addition to the original charges of felony murder and burglary, the grand jury also indicted the three on charges of malice murder, possession of a firearm during a crime, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, kidnapping with bodily injury, use of a sawed-off rifle to commit murder and use of a firearm with a silencer to commit murder, according to the indictment.

Aggravating circumstances include that the murder was committed for money and that it was committed at the direction of another.

Richard Sybert told authorities he agreed to kill Joni Clements for $1,000, a car and a date with a stripper, to be paid for by Eddy Clements, according to testimony at a hearing last week.

Other aggravating circumstances relate to the act of murder during the commission of other crimes, as well as the murder being “outrageously inhumane in that it involved torture and/or depravity of the mind.”

Warner Robins police Detective Mark Wright also testified last week that Clements begged for her life before she was shot four to five times in the upper torso with a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle.

Arraignment on the charges is expected in six to eight weeks. Richard Sybert is expected to be extradited from Florida, where he pled guilty and was sentenced on an unrelated sexual assault charge.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.

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