Warner Robins man found guilty of felony murder

PERRY — It took a Houston County jury 90 minutes to find a Warner Robins man guilty Wednesday of felony murder in an October 2007 home invasion gone awry.

Jarvis Almore, 23, was also found guilty of burglary and possession of a gun during the commission of a crime. Felony murder is when someone dies in the commission of another felony such as burglary.

Co-defendants Lakysa “Keisha” Hart, 33, and Deonta Lowe, 20, also of Warner Robins, are awaiting trial. Each was charged with felony murder, burglary and possession of a gun during the commission of a crime.

Sentencing for Almore is scheduled for Friday before Superior Court Judge Edward D. Lukemire.

Timothy Jackson, 42, was fatally shot Oct. 12 just before midnight when he confronted intruders inside a Utah Avenue home in Warner Robins.

Almore and Lowe were accused of busting through the front door of the home at 211 Utah Ave. in order to rob a known drug dealer called “Goldmouth,” according to the prosecution. Jackson, the unintended victim, frequently stayed with his girlfriend, at the Utah Avenue residence. Hart allegedly helped with planning the home invasion.

Awakened from his sleep, Jackson wrestled with Almore and Lowe in the hallway — at one point grasping the barrel of the gun allegedly brandished by Lowe and was shot once in the chest in the struggle, according to the prosecution. The girlfriend, who had barricaded herself in the bedroom, escaped out a window, ran across the street to a neighbor’s home and called 911.

Carl A. Veline Jr., a Warner Robins attorney representing Almore, told jurors that Almore was not guilty of any of the charges against him and that prosecutors had built a case against him lacking in evidence.

Veline noted that prosecutors had no weapon, no fingerprints, no footprints, no DNA, no eyewitnesses, and no blood was found inside the defendant’s vehicle.

“Nothing,” Veline told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of smoke but there’s no fire and it’s the fire that the state has to have,” Veline said.

Veline argued that Almore “had no idea of what was about to happen” and that his “mere physical presence” wasn’t enough to convict him of any of the charges against him.

But Senior District Attorney George Hartwig told jurors that crucial and key to the prosecution’s case is a Georgia law on “party to a crime” in which all of those involved may be charged, prosecuted and convicted as if each had pulled the trigger.

“We’re not talking about who was the shooter,” Hartwig told jurors.

Hartwig noted that there was no indication that the “partners in crime” had planned to cause the death of Jackson.

“But it happened and there are consequences,” Hartwig said.

Hartwig noted Almore’s own statements to police, although conflicting, in which he said he’d held open the screen door as Lowe kicked it in and heard the gun go off.

Almore was so involved in the struggle that he had Jackson’s blood on his shirt, Hartwig said.

Also, a known “thug” — as described by both Veline and Hartwig — testified earlier in the trial that Almore came to visit him in the Houston County jail and Almore told him that he and Lowe went to the Utah Avenue home to “hit a lick” — slang for home invasion — on Goldmouth, Hartwig said.

Veline noted that the thug, identified in court as Anthony Billingsley, 20, received a five-year reduction in his 15-year prison sentence for an unrelated home invasion and armed robbery in exchange for that testimony.

After the verdict, Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke said jurors felt that the explanation of “party to the crime” made it easy for them to reach a decision.

“That was why the verdict was so quick, frankly,” Burke said. “It was really a strong case.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.