The trial of three men charged with murder in the shooting of an 8-year-old boy last year is expected to get underway this week.
Opening statements are expected Tuesday in Peach County Superior Court before Judge Tripp Self.
Jai’Mel Anderson was fatally wounded Jan. 6 of last year when bullets flew through the front door of a Fort Valley apartment.
Dennis Ray Eason, 27, of Fort Valley, Kristian Jamal Wipfel, 21, of Macon, and Tevin Juwan Sams, 22, of Macon, pleaded not guilty at their arraignments.
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Eason, Wipfel and Sams are each facing a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of malice or felony murder in the boy’s death. Felony murder is when someone dies in the commission of another felony such as aggravated assault.
The only other possible sentencing option if convicted of murder is life with the possibility of parole, which requires serving 30 years before being eligible for parole consideration.
Co-defendants Antonio Darrelle Garvin, 22, and Jeremy Quillen Jackson, 26, both of Macon, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault in connection with boy’s death.
Both Garvin and Jackson originally had been charged with murder. Part of the plea agreement for both men includes truthful testimony at trial against the co-defendants. Their sentencing hearings are pending.
The final co-defendant, De’Jad Williams, 24, who was taking care of the boy when he was shot, is pending trial on a charge of murder in the second degree in the boy’s death.
Williams, who was dating Jai’Mel’s mother at the time of the shooting, is accused of encouraging and engaging in threats and aggravated assaults involving a firearm by text messages with Eason shortly before the shooting, police said.
Clad in his pajamas, Jai’Mel had stayed up late to watch television while lying on an air mattress in the living room. He was shot once in the leg and once in the upper torso about 1:40 a.m.
The boy was rushed by ambulance to the Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health, where he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m.
The shooting touched the heart of the community, which held a rally and a separate candlelight vigil in the boy’s honor.