Jury selection expected Monday in Houston County customized car murder trial

bpurser@macon.comApril 7, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- A 23-year-old Eatonton man scheduled to go to trial this week for murder in Houston County Superior Court is already in prison for a similar crime in which the victim was left paralyzed.

Stewart Calvert Brannon is the accused lookout in the armed robbery and slaying Aug. 23, 2008, of 25-year-old Mario Smith, a maintenance worker for the Houston County Board of Education. Authorities say Smith was shot in a Warner Robins storage unit for his customized 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Convicted shooter Joshua Dupree Rounsoville, 25, also of Eatonton, is serving a life sentence without parole for the Smith killing.

Also, both Rounsoville and Brannon are serving time in connection with the Aug. 10, 2008, shooting and carjacking of a Zapareo Glover, a 2005 Mary Persons High School graduate and former football player. Authorities say Glover was shot in the parking lot of a Forsyth Dairy Queen for his customized Chevrolet Caprice.

Brannon is serving a 15-year prison sentence in the Coffee County Correctional Facility for aggravated battery and theft in connection with the Forsyth carjacking. He was the getaway driver in that crime.

A third man, Robert Elon Burke of Eatonton, has been released on parole after serving about four months of a 10-year sentence for theft by taking in connection to the carjacking of Glover, according to the state Department of Corrections’ website.

Jeff Grube, a Warner Robins attorney representing Brannon, said he expects the prosecution will introduce evidence related to the Forsyth carjacking during the Houston County murder trial.

“We’re going to pick a jury and have a jury decide,” Grube said. “Any time allegations of other bad acts are introduced as evidence, that always proves to be a problem.”

He declined further comment.

Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig wrote in an email Friday that the trial is a “definite go.” He declined to elaborate on the facts of the case.

In the Smith killing, the death penalty had been sought for both Brannon and Rounsoville. But each reached agreements with the prosecution for execution to come off the table.

If convicted, Brannon agreed to one of two sentences: life with the possibility of parole and life without the possibility of parole. In his plea agreement, Rounsoville agreed to a life sentence.

Details of the Smith slaying emerged during a 2012 court hearing in which Rounsoville pleaded guilty to shooting Smith once in the head in a storage unit behind the Glass Doctor at 2305 Watson Blvd. Smith’s brother found his body slumped against a wall of the unit the next day.

Smith had advertised the car for sale in the AutoTrader magazine a few days before he was killed, and Rounsoville had responded to the ad. Smith had taken Rounsoville inside to look at the car, while Brannon allegedly kept watch outside. Smith’s car was later recovered in some woods off Glenwood Springs Road in Eatonton.

Brannon was indicted on charges of murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm in connection with Smith’s slaying.

Brannon is being held in the Houston County jail, where he was transferred from prison for trial.

Jury selection is expected Monday. The trial is expected to last three to four days, Hartwig stated in an email. Judge Katherine K. Lumsden is presiding.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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