Rapist, accused killer gets life term in Perry trial

PERRY — Convicted rapist and accused killer Erik Mize was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for a 2006 sexual assault.

Wednesday, a Houston County jury convicted Mize, 33, of Warner Robins, of the Aug. 14, 2006, rape of a woman in her home in the Corder Road area of Warner Robins.

After deliberating 50 minutes, the jury also found Mize guilty of kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated sodomy and aggravated assault.

Thursday, Superior Court Judge Edward D. Lukemire sentenced Mize to two life terms for the rape and the kidnapping, plus 25 years in prison for the aggravated sodomy, and “should he still be alive after that,” another 20 years on probation for aggravated assault, according to a news release from Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke.

Mize was also banished from Houston County for life, the release said. “Erik Mize will never again be in a position to harm any member of the public, thanks to Judge Lukemire’s strong sentence,” Burke said in a news release. “While ‘life’ was mandatory on the kidnapping with bodily injury conviction, making the rape conviction a life sentence was not. And making all the sentences consecutive wasn’t required either. The fact that the judge did consecutive sentences is indicative of the severity of these crimes and the evil that possesses Erik Mize.”

In a telephone interview, Burke said the courage and quick thinking of the woman likely saved not only her life but also possibly the life of her 2-year-old son. The child was there when Mize, an acquaintance, initially attacked her in the kitchen as she was putting up groceries.

She pleaded for the life of her child in exchange for doing whatever Mize asked, Burke said. Mize had threatened to kill her, and she told jurors that she didn’t want her son to grow up with the trauma of having witnessed her slaying, Burke said.

So, she agreed to go into a bedroom with Mize, Burke said, and submitted to his assault behind a closed door in the hope of saving herself and her son, Burke said. She promised Mize she would not tell anyone.

“She is the bravest woman I’ve ever met,” Burke said of the victim.

But William M. Peterson, a Warner Robins attorney who represented Mize, said Mize maintained that he was not guilty, that he and the woman were “friends” and that the sex was consensual.

Peterson said he was disappointed by the jury verdict and that Mize will appeal.

Mize also faces a capital murder trial in the Aug. 1, 2006, slaying of Felicia L. Hardman, a 29-year-old mother of two, in her Vernon Drive home in Warner Robins. Mize was connected to Hardman’s killing through the sexual assault investigation, according to police.

A date for that trial has not yet been set. Mize was indicted on charges of murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

“The case against Erik Mize for the murder of Felicia Hardman will be pursued just as vigorously and as passionately as we pursued this case,” Burke said in the news release.

“We look forward to justice in that case as well.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.