Three killed over weekend in two Macon incidents

Three people in south Macon were killed Saturday and Sunday in two separate incidents being investigated by authorities.

Authorities said they spent time around the clock on the cases — producing arrests in both incidents.

“It just shows good investigative work, along with community help and inter-agency help,” Macon Police Chief Mike Burns said Sunday. “When it all comes together, you can have positive results.”

In the fatal incidents, which appear to have stemmed from a botched residential robbery and a domestic altercation, suspects were named and taken into custody within about seven hours of the homicides being reported.

“It was a tough weekend. Unless we would have had police in both houses, we wouldn’t have been able to prevent these crimes,” Burns said. “But the investigators are working long hours. They’re gaining more experience than they had last year.”

About 5:05 p.m. Sunday, authorities in Dothan, Ala., located the man accused of killing a south Macon couple early that morning.

Kenneth Stokes, 42, was arrested following a traffic stop in the southeastern Alabama town, which is about 20 miles west of the Georgia state line and 18 miles north of Florida.

He is accused of murdering 27-year-old Melody Marie Benoit and 34-year-old Kelvin Prater, who were found shot dead at Benoit’s home, 2463 Vivian Drive.

Police located the victims inside the gray, wood-frame house after one of Benoit’s young children discovered the bodies and called 911 shortly before 10 a.m., police said.

Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said the victims each had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and were found in a bed in one of the bedrooms.

Stokes, according to police, is the father of the youngest of Benoit’s three children, who neighbors said are between the ages of 5 and 9.

Police believe the slayings stemmed from a domestic altercation between Stokes and Benoit, his estranged girlfriend, or Prater, her new boyfriend.

“We believe there was an argument of some sort earlier in the day, which led him to come back and shoot both victims,” Lt. Robert Grabowski said. “Through our investigation, we can place Mr. Stokes at the scene.”

Police said Stokes works as a painter and has ties to Nashville, Tenn., and Alabama but he recently has been living in motels in the Middle Georgia area.

Grabowski said Stokes possibly was in Macon attempting to visit his daughter, who lived with Benoit, the mother of the child.

“They had been separated for about one year,” he said. “From what we understand, she allowed him to see the child whenever he wanted. There were no restraining orders or anything like that. So, we believe he came down here to see the child or to talk to the mother.”

The killings, according to police, appear to have happened overnight sometime after 11 p.m. Saturday.

“That is the last time someone heard from Ms. Benoit,” said Lt. Carl Fletcher. “She was on the phone with her friend.”

Grabowski said there were no apparent signs of forced entry into the home but various evidence was taken to the crime lab for processing.

A weapon was not recovered, he said. Police believe Benoit, who worked at the Michaels arts and crafts store at Eisenhower Crossing, and Prater were shot with a handgun. The three children were placed Sunday in the protective custody of police after being found unharmed and alone at the house.

Relatives in Louisiana were summoned to Macon to retrieve the Agnes Barden Elementary School students, police said.

Kaniyah Mitchell, who lives in a house across the street, said Benoit moved to Vivian Drive about two months ago.

“Our children are about the same age and they play together sometimes,” she said. “This is nothing that you would want to happen.”

Mitchell said nothing unusual overnight caught her attention.

“Gunshots — that’s normal over here,” she said. “You hear gunshots.”

Cory Rogers, another neighbor, said he attended church with Benoit at Ross Temple Missionary Baptist Church on Berkner Avenue.

“She was a pretty nice girl. I would see her in Sunday School and at service,” he said. “The boyfriend was newer, I think, and he would be over there at the home a lot.”

Prater’s family could not be reached for comment.

Shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, Elaine Knott, a 48-year-old Robins Air Force Base employee, was found beaten to death inside her south Macon home, 3870 San Juan Ave. Courtney Kelly, 36, a neighbor, was arrested and charged with Knott’s murder Saturday afternoon.

He was located about 3 p.m. at the America’s Best Inn on Pio Nono Avenue.

Kelly, of 3938 San Juan Ave., remains in custody at the Bibb County jail without bond on charges of murder and burglary. The killings marked the second weekend in less than a year that Macon police have worked back-to-back homicides during a 24-hour span.

Police continue to investigate separate shootings one weekend last August on Interstate 16 and Pansy Avenue, in which two Macon men were killed and there are no suspects.

To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.