Murder suspect to face trial in attack

PERRY — A Warner Robins man accused of murder will go on trial this week on sexual assault charges that led to his arrest.

Erik Mize, 33, is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and stabbing to death another woman in Warner Robins in 2006.

The crimes are unrelated, police said. But it was during the sexual assault investigation that Warner Robins police connected Mize to the slaying of Felicia L. Hardman, a 29-year-old mother of two.

Jury selection is expected to take place today, and jurors may hear opening arguments by late afternoon. The sexual assault trial is expected to take at least three days. Mize was indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault and aggravated battery.

A date for his murder trial has not yet been set. Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke is seeking the death penalty. Burke declined to comment pending trial. Mize was indicted on charges of murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

Mize was charged with rape Aug. 14, 2006, in the sexual assault of a woman in her home in the Corder Road area 13 days after the stabbing death of Hardman inside her Vernon Drive home off S. Pleasant Hill Road, police said.

The rape victim identified Mize as her attacker, police said, and he was arrested at his home at 436 Woodland Drive a few hours after the assault.

Through the sexual assault investigation, police learned that Mize also knew Hardman. Police declined to reveal how Mize knew the two women.

Hardman was not sexually assaulted, police said.

In both crimes, the victims let the attacker inside their homes, police said.

Police were already confident that Hardman’s killer was someone she knew because there was no forced entry in her home and nothing appeared to have been stolen.

“We know that she (Hardman) invited him into the house. ... At some point, they got into an argument and the argument turned violent,” Warner Robins police Lt. Chris Rooks told the Telegraph in 2006 after Mize’s arrest on the murder charge.

During interviews with police, Mize did not admit to killing Hardman, but he knew details about the slaying, Rooks said.

Both women fought with their attacker, police said.

Hardman had defensive wounds in attempting to shield herself from being stabbed, while the rape victim suffered visible injuries from where her attacker struck her with his hands and his feet, police said.

Hardman’s body was discovered by her live-in boyfriend, Robert Yerby, and their then 6-year-old son, police said. Yerby called 911 at 1:43 p.m. Aug. 1, 2006. Police believe that Hardman was killed within three hours of the discovery of her body. Hardman’s daughter from a previous relationship, who was 12 at the time, was with family friends when her mother was slain.

A $5,000 reward was offered by police for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hardman’s killer. But police said the arrest of Mize was not related to the reward.

William M. Peterson, a Warner Robins lawyer representing Mize, could not be reached for comment.

Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.