A Floyd County Superior Court jury found Corey Demarcus Gardhigh guilty of murder Thursday in the beating death of a Lindale man he said owed him back wages.
Judge Billy Sparks will sentence Gardhigh at a later date.
Paul Anthony Grady died of blunt force trauma injuries on Jan. 4, 2017, a week after Gardhigh attacked him at his home. An autopsy revealed 24 separate sites of impact on Grady's face and head, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner.
"Corey Gardhigh was caught literally red-handed. He had blood literally on his hands," Assistant District Attorney Luke Martin told the jury in his closing remarks Thursday.
Gardhigh's attorney, Durante Partridge, said he planned to review the proceedings of the four-day trial to see if there are any avenues for appeal.
"It was a tough situation. There was a lot to overcome," he said.
In his summation to the jury, Partridge underscored what he said were conflicting testimonies and an incomplete investigation.
Grady's stepson described a man in white pants with a blue stripe running from the scene and jumping into a white car driven by another man.
Bank video from earlier in the day — when a $153 check Grady had written to Gardhigh was rejected — showed Gardhigh in an orange jacket. He was with his mother and his two children when he went to Grady's home.
Witnesses differed on if Grady "lunged at" or made contact with Gard-high first as the two stood arguing on Grady's porch, Partridge said.
He also painted a picture of a combative injured man who could have fallen or otherwise hurt himself further after Gardhigh left.
And he said police stopped looking for other suspects when they found the bloody check bearing Gardhigh's name.
"This was a one-track investigation. One story. One check. ... In this situation, (the facts) are all over the place. The state falls short of its burden of proof," Partridge said.
But Martin said any inconsistencies could be attributed to the witnesses' emotional states or a desire to shield Gardhigh, who admitted during an interview at the jail that he had been wearing a blue and white jacket at Grady's house.
Martin played the 911 tape from when Grady's stepson found him lying unconscious and bleeding on the sidewalk. The injured man's labored breathing — deep, rasping, gasping and slow — was so loud the dispatcher heard it clearly over the panicked teen's voice.
Martin also showed video of an interview with Gardhigh's 11-year-old son conducted in a room at Harbor House, the Northwest Georgia Child Advocacy Center.
The boy said his father grappled with Grady, threw him down the steps and hit him several times in the face while he was lying on the ground.
As Grady was taking hits that split his lip, broke his nose and cut the area above his eye, Martin said, the back and side of his skull was slamming him into the concrete sidewalk.
"The one eyewitness whose story makes sense implicates Corey Gard-high," he said.
Martin referenced a threatening phone text Gardhigh sent to Grady in December that said "I don't give a f—— about your family or my freedom," and the bank teller's testimony that Gardhigh said "I'll kill him" when the check was refused.
"This case matters to a lot of people," Martin said.
He showed a photo of Grady's bereaved family, then ran more of the Harbor House tape. In it, Gardhigh's son said his father told him — as they were driving away — that he should handle any personal disputes the same way.
"Mr. Gard-high, you didn't give a f—- about his family or your freedom then," Martin said, then turned to face the panel. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, find him guilty now."
The jury deliberated three and a half hours before announcing Gard-high's guilt on the felony murder charge.
They downgraded a malice murder charge to voluntary manslaughter and also rendered guilty verdicts on charges of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and thirddegree cruelty to a child for involving his son.
A little over a year after the Habitat for Humanity ReStore relocated to 95 Three Rivers Drive from Central Plaza, the executive director of the nonprofit's local chapter says business is not doing as well as it was at the previous site.
"We're not thriving there," Bruce Day said of the store's new location in a non-retail space across from Rome High. "We are struggling."
Prior to relocating the ReStore, which opened up its new location Jan. 14, 2017, Day said the nonprofit organization had been given two months to find a new spot and move out of 10 Central Plaza, which is now occupied by Woodstock Furniture & Mattress Outlet.
Day said they were unable to find a place in a retail area for the right price, so they settled on the non-retail space.
"There are a lot of things that we like about it," he said.
Loading docks have made drop-off more convenient, including the unloading of their own trucks after picking items up from people's homes.
However, Day said there is less space in the new facility, but there is more room to process donations.
One of the main issues facing the ReStore, which is a revenue stream for the organization's work in providing affordable housing to families, is the lack of awareness people have of the relocation, Day said, adding that some have even thought it closed permanently. An advertising blitz is set to get underway to get the word out, but that won't be cheap, he added.
"I think they can find us again," Day said of customers. "The ReStore is an important stream of income for Habitat for Humanity ... and we need the community's help to make the ReStore successful."
Circulating items out on the sales floor quickly and bringing more new items out more frequently is an adjustment that has to be made to the smaller space, Day said.
"We've gotta keep the donations up," to do this, he said.
Day said if there are items people can't drop off themselves, ReStore workers can come and pick them up. Those with items for pickup can call 706-378-5957 to arrange a time for workers to come out.
The ReStore is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Members of the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority were told to eat right and get their running shoes on to keep up with modernization plans in 2018.
Norman Pleger, director of modernization, said work to complete the new Joe Wright Village in North Rome is scheduled for completion before Thanksgiving, and plans for the redevelopment of close to 90 new housing units in East Rome should start to take off later this summer.
Plans are for the 68-units to replace the old Altoview Terrace public housing at Spring Creek and East 14th Streets. The plans include a large community room, pool and tennis court.
The housing authority is in negotiations with the Greater Mount Calvary Baptist Church, 445 E. 14th St., to acquire a parcel adjacent to the church to help with storm water run-offs, which Pleger said would also benefit the church.
Another 25 to 30 units will be constructed along the Maple Street and East 12th Street corridor.
Plans are to finance that project, in part, through tax credits that are being sought through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Authority Executive Director Sandra Hudson said.
"We haven't decided if we want to go it alone," Hudson said referring to the development of the new complex. "DCA may say you need a co-developer."
Certificate of occupancy inspections are underway at the first eight units in the Joe Wright Village complex off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Construction has started on the remaining units and the entire complex is slated to be completed late this fall.
The complex will consist of four single family homes and ten duplex units.
The Northwest Georgia Housing Authority approved rent and utility allowance packages for 2018 during their meeting held on Wednesday morning.
The rental rates range from a low of $309 for a one-bedroom unit up to $814 for a five-bedroom unit.
Residents of public housing also get a utility allowance that can range from $66 to $158 a month for natural gas and from $36 to $148 a month for electricity.
Hudson told the authority that her staff would bring some budget revisions to the retirement package for employees to the February meeting.
She is expecting to recommend a reduction in the authority's contribution to the employee retirement package from a flat eight percent a month to match whatever the employees contribute themselves.
Finance Director Tammy Morrow projected that could save up to $8,000 a month.
The Housing Authority's budget needs to be tweaked, Hudson said, because the Department of Housing and Urban Development had cut the annual subsidy to the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority by $300,000 this year.
Today's artwork is by Zoe Taylor, a fifth-grader at Alto Park Elementary School.