Macon’s first murder trial of the year began Tuesday.
Chances are you don’t remember the killing, the suspect or the victim.
Even so, the case’s opening statements and testimony offered a glimpse into one of the 30 or 40 or 50 or so killings each year in Middle Georgia — killings that, for whatever reason, after they happen often don’t generate much news about what prompted them.
Tuesday’s proceeding provided the first detailed public account of what went down on a night three Julys ago in a housing project on Houston Avenue. It was the night Javoris Q. Butler, a 29-year-old marijuana dealer with heart problems, was shot to death in front of his four children.
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Butler’s slaying was one of 28 homicides in Bibb County in 2015.
The trial for his alleged killer, a 22-year-old named Steve “Bear” Anthony Fort, who is accused of robbing and murdering Butler and shooting at others, will likely last most of the week.
The case may hinge on the eyewitness testimony of several people who saw it and who early on thought the killer was someone else, not the since-accused Fort.
What’s more, a jury of nine women and three men is expected to hear testimony from an acquaintance of the accused killer who has told investigators that he and Fort had driven around on the evening of the killing looking for someone to rob. And also that when, having not found anyone, the acquaintance dropped Fort off near Pendleton Homes, where Fort supposedly told the acquaintance in parting, “I’m not going home broke tonight.”
Pendleton Homes, a World War II-era housing project bounded by Houston Avenue to the front, Beulahland Baptist Church and Interstate 75 to the back, was where Butler lived. He lived there with his fiancee, Sascha “Tiny” Holman, and their two daughters and two sons, who ranged in age from 2 to 10.
Butler, known by his friends as “J,” was on disability. He had heart trouble and needed a transplant. According to testimony on Tuesday, he also sold marijuana, a stash of which he kept along with rolls of cash and a pistol in a child-size book bag in a closet at his family’s apartment.
The night of July 21, 2015, a bandit came calling about 11 p.m., crashing a gathering around the family’s stoop. At least one shot was fired before children and others scrambled.
The gunman, with a bandana masking his face, yelled, “Give it up! Give it up!” apparently knowing Butler had a stash.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Holman, the mother of Butler’s children, said the bandit then aimed his gun at her 2-year-old son’s chest.
“Please, don’t kill my son!” she cried.
Before breaking down in tears on the witness stand, Holman said, “When I begged him not to kill my son, that’s when he took the gun and he pointed it at my head.”
Holman said she rushed inside and told someone to toss the book bag out to the robber.
Then the gunman shot Butler.
Fort, who was arrested later that summer in southeastern Virginia, became a suspect in the days after the slaying.
Some people on the other side of Pendleton Homes had reported seeing him duck into an apartment, where, in the moments after Butler’s shooting, Fort was said to have forced one of the people to drive him to a house off Rice Mill Road, a few miles away.
In court Tuesday, relatives and others close to Butler filled a row of seats, some of them sobbing as Holman testified about Butler’s dying breaths. Holman also spoke of Butler's heart trouble.
Three months before his death, his mother had created a GoFundMe account to raise money for his medical treatment.
The account had a goal of $15,000.
When Butler was killed, the account had raised all of $265.