Showdown coming in Monroe County murder case

jkovac@macon.comDecember 2, 2013 

FORSYTH -- There’s been a wrinkle in the murder case against a pair of Bibb County Eagle Scouts accused of luring a man to a shack in the woods and killing him.

Conflicting accounts of the deadly episode have emerged, and the young men in trouble -- who may be middle-aged by the time they’re free -- might soon point the finger at one another in court.

Stephen Lober, 22, and Kyle Dougherty, 23, former schoolmates and Scouting pals, allegedly gunned down 21-year-old Trevorius Thomas of west Macon in an apparent robbery gone bad on Jan. 27, 2012.

Four days after the slaying, Dougherty led investigators to Thomas’ body at an abandoned house on Zebulon Road, not far from Bolingbroke.

Dougherty spoke with authorities and laid out how he and Lober intended to trick Thomas, whom Lober knew, into going to the house to buy a pound of marijuana. But it was a ruse, investigators said.

With Dougherty lying in wait at the shack, Lober drove to Macon, picked up Thomas and returned, authorities have said. But Dougherty and Lober didn’t have a pound of marijuana. When Thomas arrived, one of them allegedly shot him to death.

Dougherty told Monroe County sheriff’s deputies that Lober was the one who opened fire and that the stickup scheme was Lober’s idea.

Lober, who hadn’t cooperated with investigators, pleaded guilty to felony murder Nov. 21 for his role in the killing.

“Mr. Lober believes Mr. Dougherty’s more culpable than he is in this case,” Assistant Monroe District Attorney Mark Daniel said at the plea hearing.

Daniel said Lober will testify against Dougherty, who is scheduled to go to trial in March.

In the weeks and months after the killing, it appeared Dougherty would testify against Lober, perhaps in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Lober, who lived with his parents in Lizella, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder charge and five years on a gun-possession charge. He will be eligible for parole in 2042.

“Lober’s credibility is zero,” Dougherty’s lawyer, Franklin J. Hogue, said Monday. “If he took the position that Kyle made him murder Mr. Thomas, then he should have had the courage to put that defense to a jury verdict. It was Lober’s idea and Lober pulled the trigger. Kyle, on the other hand, plans to go to trial. As his lawyer, I look forward to cross-examining Lober.”

At the Nov. 21 plea hearing, Daniel said Lober and Dougherty “are both guilty as parties to the crime of murder in the state’s opinion.”

Daniel also noted that Lober would “sit down with” a sheriff’s investigator and offer “some additional information” about the case.

Lober has since met with an investigator, but the information he shared wasn’t anything authorities weren’t already aware of.

“Mr. Lober does acknowledge there was cash that was taken” when Thomas was held up, Daniel said at the hearing. “He didn’t really give an amount. He just said a large amount of cash was taken.”

Dougherty, who lives with his folks in south Bibb County, has been out of jail on $250,000 bond since last year. He has told investigators that he and Lober didn’t get any money in the robbery.

After Lober was sentenced last month, he said, “I’d like to apologize to the victim’s family. I’m sorry this happened.”

Monroe Superior Court Judge Tommy Wilson acknowledged Thomas’ parents, who were there for the proceeding.

Thomas’ parents were the ones who sounded the alarm when Thomas went missing. They’d heard he’d been last seen with Lober, and they pointed authorities to Lober and Dougherty after phoning the two suspects repeatedly when they couldn’t find their son.

“This court and everybody in this room are sorry for your loss,” Wilson said. “Mr. Lober, I want you to look at them. Then I want you to look at your mom and dad. You ain’t just destroyed that young boy’s life, you’ve destroyed all of them.”

Lober was later asked about Dougherty, his former friend, who remains out on bond.

“Is he a flight risk?” the judge asked.

“I would believe so,” Lober replied. “I mean, I just ... I believe that now that he knows I’m testifying against him, I don’t think he’s going to be here for trial if he goes to trial. But I don’t have any concrete evidence.”

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

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service