Suspect in slaying of Macon grandmother says, ‘I steal, I do not kill!’

jkovac@macon.comNovember 19, 2012 

The accused killer of an 87-year-old Macon woman admits stealing one of her rings, but says he didn’t murder her.

Aurie Bonner III, arrested in the mid-October suffocation slaying of Christine P. Cook, says he was a handyman whose chores included cleaning her flower beds and even dusting in her home.

He called her “my work lady.”

“She was and always will be good folks,” Bonner wrote in a recent letter to a Telegraph reporter.

In the letter and, later, in an interview at the Bibb County jail, Bonner portrayed himself as an innocent in a case that stirred public concern.

Cook’s death came on the heels of the slaying of 58-year-old Gail Spencer, who like Cook lived alone, barely a quarter-mile away. Authorities do not think the cases are related and four suspects have been charged in Spencer’s murder.

Cook’s body was found in her house on General Lee Road in the wee hours of Oct. 18. She last spoke to her daughter by phone on the night of Oct. 16.

Bonner, 31, was jailed five days later, charged with Cook’s slaying.

At his first-appearance hearing Oct. 24, jailers had to haul a combative Bonner by his arms and legs to stand before a judge. At one point, Bonner told a hefty sheriff’s deputy, “You take these cuffs off, I’ll beat you.”

In a letter to a Telegraph reporter postmarked Oct. 27, Bonner wrote:

“First i want to say sorry to da family of Mrs. Cook. ... Next I want to say sorry for my action ... coming in court. Da reason for dat was one: everywhere I go its cameras stuck to my face. Two: da fat white officer kicked me in da back of da head. Forth: im charge for something I didn’t do. Look at my background and tell me do it fit a killer profile. The only thing im guilty of is theft by takin. (I steal i do not kill!) ... Thanks 4 your time. ... P.S. im not a killer.”

Bonner has a history of theft and burglary convictions and has twice been sent to prison, most recently for more than six years. He last got out in November 2010.

In the Bibb jail’s visitation room on Saturday, Bonner told a reporter how he and his father used to do work for Cook. Lately, though, Bonner said he had been going to her a couple of times a month in search of odd jobs. Sometimes, he said, he’d earn as much as $70.

He says that on Oct. 16, two days before Cook was found dead, he was working for her again and was inside her house. He said he saw one of her rings and slipped it into his pocket.

Bonner said, “I was cleaning up the house and I asked if I could use the bathroom. ... (The ring) was sitting on the sink.”

“I admit doing that,” he said. “I took the ring. ... The only thing I’m guilty of is theft by taking.”

Bonner says “the folks that I sold the ring to” may have pawned it.

Although police have not said what led them to arrest Bonner, tracking down Cook’s ring apparently helped them zero in on him.

Bonner says police told him that his fingerprints were found at Cook’s house. He says that’s because he worked there. Bonner also says his alibi is that he was paying a Georgia Power bill at the time police supposedly think Cook was slain.

Prosecutors on Monday declined to comment on Bonner’s claims.

But Cook’s daughter, Cheryl Pepper of Wrightsville, said by phone, “Everything he told you is a crock.”

Pepper says that except for the part about Bonner and his father having done work for Cook in the past, his talk about dusting in Cook’s house or using her restroom doesn’t ring true.

Pepper, who can’t recall ever seeing Bonner at her mother’s house, says Cook hired a weekly house-cleaning service run by a couple that lived nearby.

She also said it would be “out of the question” for Cook to let Bonner use her restroom.

“And she never took her rings off. Not even for a shower or a bath,” Pepper said.

All Bonner ever did was minor yard work for Cook, Pepper said. “It wasn’t anything extensive. ... And I don’t even know that.”

Pepper says her mother was unaware of Bonner’s criminal past. She says his father had done yard work for Cook “a good while.”

“And that’s how (Bonner) apparently found out about mother,” Pepper said, “when he came over and helped out. That’s the only part that I know that is possibly accurate. ... But as far as coming over there and being her worker, he was not.”

Pepper, a former prison counselor, referred to Bonner as “a typical convict.”

“That’s the way he sounds to me,” she said. “If he can get that publicity in the paper that, ‘Hey, I say I’m innocent,’ he wants people to read that. And he thinks it’s gonna work, but it doesn’t. ... He’s not gonna talk his way out of it.

“The next thing you’re gonna hear is that he’s found God.”

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