Accused killer in Cook case to jailer: Take off my cuffs so I can beat you

jkovac@macon.comOctober 24, 2012 

Surrounded by the jailers who’d hauled him into court by his arms and legs, Aurie Bonner III, a bald-headed, 185-pound whirl of fury, composed himself enough Wednesday to hear a judge tell him he’d been charged with murder.

He’d been arrested the evening before, within hours of the funeral for Christine P. Cook, the 87-year-old woman he is accused of killing a week ago.

His afternoon appearance before a Bibb County magistrate was but his first step back into a criminal justice system he knows well, but he chose to let others do the walking for him.

Watching from the bench as Bonner was lugged bucking and kicking to stand before her, judge Barbara S. Harris nearly waved him away.

“You don’t have to bring him in like that,” Harris told jailers.

“Tell her I ain’t gotta come in here period!” Bonner huffed.

“Mr. Bonner, Mr. Bonner,” Harris said, unruffled, her voice low and calm, “I need for you to control yourself.”

“Man, take these cuffs off!” said Bonner, breathless.

“Just listen to me, OK? ... Let me advise you of your rights,” Harris said.

“Man, let me go!” Bonner said to the jailers clutching him.

“Mr. Bonner,” Harris continued, “can you listen to me?”

She asked if he understood he’d been charged with murder. Bonner, 31, shook his head no. Then he nodded. He signed a form and was led back to his cell.

On his way out, the 5-foot-9 Bonner, still keyed up and out of breath, told a husky sheriff’s deputy, “You take these cuffs off, I’ll beat you one on one. Beat the (expletive) out of you.”

The hearing lasted all of three minutes and 15 seconds.

* * *

Macon police won’t say publicly what led them to arrest Bonner. Nor will they say why they think he killed her.

But considering his extensive burglary record and that he once did yardwork for Cook, it’s likely he was on their radar soon after she was found suffocated last Thursday in her bedroom.

A piece of Cook’s jewelry, possibly sold to someone or to a pawnshop, apparently linked Bonner to the case.

A clear timeline of when Cook was slain has yet to emerge. She had gone out for a hamburger and fries with a friend on the afternoon of Oct. 16, a Tuesday. Later that night, as she was about to go to bed, Cook talked to her daughter on the phone.

The next morning, neighbors noticed her blue Cadillac parked along a street about 100 yards from her house. But it wasn’t until after midnight, just past 1 a.m. Thursday, that police found Cook dead after her daughter, worried about her, called and asked them to check on Cook.

* * *

Born on April Fool’s Day 1981, Bonner grew up around southwest Macon.

Records show that his father has lived on Nisbet Drive, between Bloomfield Road and Interstate 475, since the mid-1990s.

Bonner has had problems with drinking and drugs. In 2000, he was banned from Rocky Creek Foods for shoplifting.

After a burglary arrest in the spring of 2001, he tried to kill himself in the Bibb jail. He complained of “visual and auditory hallucinations,” according to a court order for a psychiatric evaluation.

He was also in a gang, court records note.

The first time he went to jail for burglary was in 1998. He was 17. He kicked in the back door of a house on Bob-O-Link Drive -- a couple of blocks from his father’s house -- and stole a stereo, CDs, guns, rolls of pennies, jewelry.

Myra Barfield, who lived there, had just left for work. She says Bonner apparently “watched me leave.”

The stolen guns led cops to Bonner.

“When they took us to a house to identify our stuff,” Barfield, 65, said Wednesday, “he was laying in the bed listening to our stereo. He said somebody bought it. ... Then he changed his story.”

The stereo had Barfield’s husband’s Social Security number etched on it.

She says she also saw the missing rolls of change there.

Bonner said it, too, was his.

The Barfields’ name and address were written on them.

* * *

Bonner was sentenced to three months in a probation boot camp. He was also ordered to pay the Barfields resititution.

They never got a penny from him.

In the fall of 1998, Bonner was indicted on a charge that he stole a 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass the previous summer. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and 500 hours of community service, which he never did.

The petition to revoke his probation in January 2000 said he’d violated the gang-activity conditions of his probation, that he was smoking pot and that he wasn’t reporting to his probation officer.

In May 2000, he was sent to a work-release program for 60 days, but by the following spring he was in trouble again for burglary. This time at another house in southwest Macon, one behind Barden Elementary School. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison with two to serve.

He was a free man again in August 2003.

Twenty-one days after he got out of prison, he and two other men broke into a house on Nisbet Drive, and he was sent to prison again the following May. But not before he was indicted in a February 2004 burglary on Crystal Lake Circle.

While in prison a year later, where he would remain until 2010, he sent a letter to Bibb Superior Court. He was seeking court records that he felt would get him out of prison.

“I were hoping could you send me my transcrip (sic). Its nothing but 3 pages long,” Bonner wrote.

“I would pay you for it, but I don’t have no family in Macon, but you can take it off my books here at this prison. ... Please help me. I really need those scrips to free myself. Thanks for your time!! May God bless you always. ... P.S. If you can’t help point me to somebody that can!”

* * *

Bonner’s sister, LaShandra, says his outburst in court Wednesday was “him breaking down.”

She saw video footage of the hearing.

“It’s hard to watch because I know that’s not him,” she said. “And I know that’s him reacting out because he is scared ... and we’re afraid that this is his way of breaking down. And we’re really scared he is gonna harm hisself.”

She says her brother had done lawn work for the slain woman in the past.

“He may be a thief,” LaShandra Bonner, 32, said, “but he is no killer.”

She says she has spoken to her brother since his arrest and that he told her he’d told the police “it wasn’t him” who killed Christine Cook.

“He may know who did that, but it wasn’t him,” LaShandra Bonner said. “Every time I talk to him, he says, ‘I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it.’ ... I told him he’s got to accept his responsibility if he had anything period to do with it, ... but he said as far as touching anyone, he didn’t do it. ... That’s not in his character.”

She says that when she was 12 and her brother was 11, their mother died.

“We just seen a change in him,” she says. “He felt alone in this world.”

Their father, a disabled veteran, raised them after that, and, she says, always “had the finer things.”

“He never condoned stealing. If we ever did something like that he whooped our butt,” LaShandra Bonner said.

Aurie has a tattoo -- “Young Money” -- which he got as a kid when he and his sister were on a step-dancing team.

In his prison file, “Young Money” is listed as one of his aliases.

He had been living with his father after getting out of prison in November 2010. Aurie did odd jobs, but with a prison record he had little luck landing decent work.

“He was always coming to us, you know, ‘I can’t find no money. I can’t do this. I can’t do that. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard,’” LaShandra Bonner said.

Wednesday evening she was shutting down, or at least making private, her brother’s Facebook page.

She said people were sending messages to the page “saying mean stuff like, in their words, ‘Another bad (racial slur) off the streets.’”

By nightfall, after she altered the page, her brother’s favorite quotation was gone.

“Money is da motive,” it read.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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