The pungent odor of bleach permeated the air when sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of a rented Chadwick Road home one early Monday morning in August 2013.
Coleman Lawrence Crouch, then 21, answered the 5 a.m. knock. He was immediately taken into custody.
Acting on a tip, deputies arriving at the three-story house in the West Quail Run subdivision may have interrupted an alleged cleanup of a crime scene.
Sheriff’s investigators say an execution-style double-homicide took place in the west Houston County home the previous night.
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Shaland D. McConnell, 30, and Ruben Guillermo Miranda, 32, of the the San Francisco Bay area of California, each had been shot in the back of the head between 8 p.m. and midnight Aug. 18, 2013.
Their bodies were found several hours later in a deeply wooded area off North Houston Lake Road and the intersection of Ga. 41 and Ga. 49.
Crouch, now 23, was the first of five young adults to be arrested in connection to what sheriff’s investigators said was a drug-related execution and attempted coverup.
Three of the co-defendants, including accused shooter Thomas Andrew Kelley, have entered guilty pleas related to their involvement in the crime.
Those negotiated pleas all required “truthful testimony” against any remaining co-defendants at trial.
Crouch’s trial is expected to start Monday in Houston County Superior Court.
Crouch, now 23, was indicted on two counts each of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and concealing a death, and one count of tampering with evidence.
He pleaded not guilty.
Jeff Grube, the lead attorney on his defense team, and District Attorney George Hartwig declined to comment on the facts of the case.
But an unsuccessful bond hearing for co-defendant Justice Bernard Evans in 2013 shed some light on the crime and Crouch’s alleged involvement.
Evans, 22, of Macon, is serving a 10-year sentence after later pleading guilty to two counts of concealing a death and one count of tampering with evidence.
But in 2013, Russell Walker, a Perry attorney who represented Evans at the bond hearing, presented a theory of the case that placed the blame for the killings on others.
According to Walker’s theory, Crouch was allegedly selling drugs, and his supplier was allegedly Miranda, Walker said at the hearing. Crouch allegedly owed Miranda money for drugs that he wasn’t able to pay back, and Crouch was being pressured by Miranda.
Walker speculated that Crouch enlisted Kelley to shoot Miranda. Later, when Miranda and McConnell arrived at the home with Crouch for a drug deal or some other business, Kelley came in behind and shot the men.
Kelley, 22, is serving a life sentence for the murders plus 10 years for concealing the deaths.
Kelley’s girlfriend at the time of slayings, Kristen Ann Beuthin, 21, of Loganville, is serving a 12-year sentence for concealing the deaths and tampering with the evidence. Beuthin helped clean up the crime scene.
Amy Patricia Walker, 21, of Macon, faces trial on two counts of concealing a death and one count of tampering with evidence. Walker, who was Evans’ girlfriend at the time, also allegedly helped clean up the crime scene.
Authorities reportedly took sections of wall board where gunshots penetrated a wall of the Chadwick Road residence, a cushion from the living room couch that had been saturated with blood, and shell casings found behind a TV.
Also, investigators recovered a .45-caliber Glock thought to be used in the slayings as well as a yellow Ford 2004 pickup thought to have been used to transport the bodies, Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Jon Holland previously said.
The family truck was used by Kelley, Holland said. Kelley wrecked it near the Chadwick Road residence about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 19. Neighbors reported seeing Kelley and Crouch moving the vehicle, which had struck a mailbox.
Jury selection is expected Monday, and opening statements from prosecution and defense attorneys are expected Tuesday.