More details emerge in Houston County double homicide

bpurser@macon.comOctober 17, 2013 

Justice Bernard Evans

PERRY -- More details emerged about an August double homicide during a court hearing Thursday where bond was denied for one of the accused.

Justice Bernard Evans, 19, of Macon, is charged with murder, tampering with evidence and concealing the deaths of Shaland D. McCon­nell, 30, and Ruben Guillermo Miranda, 32, of the San Francisco Bay Area. Judge Katherine K. Lumsden denied Evans’ bond.

McConnell and Miranda were shot the night of Aug. 18 in what authorities described as a drug-related, execution-style killing of them in a rented Chadwick Road home shared by Coleman Lawrence Crouch and Thomas Andrew Kelley in the West Quail Run subdivision in Houston County.

Kelley is charged with murder in the deaths, while Crouch is charged with party to the crime of murder, tampering with evidence and attempting to conceal the deaths. Also, Kristen Beuthin of Loganville, and Amy Patricia Walker, of Macon, were charged with tampering with evidence and concealing deaths.

Russell Walker, a Perry attorney representing Evans, argued Thursday that witnesses who place Evans at the crime scene did not implicate him in the killing. He noted the witnesses’ statements also were in conflict about what happened when McConnell and Miranda were slain.

Walker told the judge that allegations as authorities have laid out to him are that Crouch was selling drugs, and his supplier was Miranda. Crouch allegedly owed Miranda money for drugs that he wasn’t able to pay back, and Crouch was being pressured by Miranda, Walker said. Crouch allegedly enlisted Kelley to shoot Miranda, Walker said.

Miranda and McConnell came to the home with Crouch for a drug deal or some other business, Walker said. Kelley allegedly came in behind and shot the men.

Walker told the judge he expects the prosecution to allege that Evans was the “backup in case something went wrong. We dispute adamantly that this happened,” Walker said.

District Attorney George Hartwig countered that Evans was allegedly involved in the planning of the killings, was armed with a handgun in the event the premeditated murder did not go as planned and helped dump the bodies.

“He was involved from start to finish,” Hartwig said.

Miranda and McConnell were killed between 8 p.m. and midnight Aug. 18, authorities said. The bodies were found more than six hours later Aug. 19 in a deeply wooded area by a lake in Vinson Valley near an industrial park off U.S. 41.

Both men had been shot at least once in the head, Hartwig said.

Walker noted that Evans, a 2011 Westfield School graduate who played football and was a state champion for the high jump in track and field, had no criminal record other than some minor infractions in college for which misdemeanor charges were dismissed. One included being in a vehicle in which others had marijuana and the other involved being at female dormitory when he should not have been, Walker said.

Also, Evans has a strong work ethic demonstrated by the various jobs he’s held and comes from a strong hard-working, God-fearing family, Walker said.

Members of Evans’ family, including his mother and grandmother, along with his pastor, sat behind Evans in the courtroom. A family member declined to comment afterward.

Reached by telephone after the hearing, Walker said of Evans, “Based on what I’ve seen and on my own investigation, I do not believe he’s guilty of murder.”

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