Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge Suzanne H. Smith denied a motion to set bond for a man accused of an April 25 murder in Bartow Superior Court Monday morning.
Defendant Chase Dion Smith is also facing one count of aggravated assault stemming from the incident, which transpired off Dripping Rock Trail in Acworth.
Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rosemary Greene said the victim — 30-year-old Cody Marcus Myers — was allegedly stabbed at least half a dozen times by the defendant.
“There was a verbal altercation between Mr. Smith and the deceased,” she said. “At some point in time, they left the front porch area of the home and went around to engage in what appeared, at first, to be a physical fight.”
Greene said neighbors observed the defendant allegedly fleeing the scene before law enforcement officials arrived.
Smith, 19, turned himself in to the Bartow County Jail on May 4.
Defense attorney Grady Moore said the defendant was previously denied bond at a May 18 hearing, adding that Smith has now been in pretrial custody for 90 days without his case being indicted by grand jurors.
He said the statewide judicial orders enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak have rendered him unable to file motions for new discovery or, potentially, a speedy trial demand.
Moore said a probable cause hearing did take place on July 15.
“The State did not bring forward any witnesses,” he said. “In fact, the investigator that was testifying said that she knows of none who actually saw how this fight started.”
If released from pretrial custody, Moore said the defendant would reside at an address in Cartersville.
Moore did not specify a requested monetary amount in his motion to set bond.
“I don’t mind saying in open court and even in front of the State that this may be a subject of a plea in bar where we will be asking the court to grant immunity from prosecution,” he said. “I think it would be appropriate to allow him the opportunity to be on bond to prepare for that sort of defense.”
The defendant is also facing three misdemeanor charges from earlier this year. That includes one count of family violence battery and two counts of third degree cruelty to children in connection with an incident alleged to have taken place on Feb. 28.
In that incident, Greene alleged the defendant struck a female in the face in front of a 2-year-old and 1-year-old child.
“Law enforcement was called, he fled the scene there,” Greene said. “He left them there in the vehicle, which was traveling down the side of the road when it occurred.”
Greene said there is one co-defendant in the felony case, who is not facing murder charges at this time.
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) records indicate Nicholas Deshon Willis, of Cartersville, was charged with one count of hindering apprehension or punishment of a criminal. Documents indicate he was booked in to the Bartow County Jail on April 26 and released the same day on a $2,500 bond.
“Based on the nature of the charges, we believe that Mr. Smith is a significant threat to the community,” Greene said. “He has two pending cases involving physical violence here in our community, we also have some concerns about flight — in neither one of these cases, Mr. Smith remained on the scene.”
She also raised concerns about witnesses at the scene of the alleged murder being subjected to “some type of intimidation” by the defendant if he is released on bond.
Cody Black, a friend of the deceased, briefly spoke in the courtroom.
“I’ve seen his Facebook pictures and everything else, and they’re holding up guns and stuff like that,” he alleged. “I think it would be detrimental to this whole situation and his situation to be able to grow and learn from his mistakes to let him have a bond.”
“I would ask the court to not consider any testimony with respect to anything he may have seen on Facebook, any pictures that the State has not chosen to make part of their presentation of evidence in this case,” he said. “I don’t believe that’s appropriate for the court to consider.”
Ashley Powell, the mother of the deceased’s son, also addressed Judge Smith.
“My son, this has ruined his entire life, so far,” she told the court. “He can hardly sleep at night, I have to beg him to eat, he’s lost weight, he’s failing in school, he needs counseling.”
She told the court she was horrified of encountering the defendant in public.
“Having him on the street when I live in the same county, I live minutes from the incident, from his girlfriend’s home,” she said, “and the chance that my 5 year old can run into him at the gas station is terrifying to us.”
Moore said the defendant has family members who do support him, but did not attend Monday’s bond hearing — “both for concerns about the virus pandemic issues and to make sure that we did not have both families in the courtroom at the same time, in hopes of forestalling any issues there,” he said.
He briefly addressed the concerns raised by Powell.
“If there’s a concern that they’re going to run into each other in the community, that can be addressed by appropriate conditions of bond,” he said, “which, of course, Mr. Smith will abide by, whatever conditions the court places.”
Judge Smith said she was apprehensive about setting bond for the defendant, stating that he has multiple charges involving alleged “acts of violence” and has fled from police on at least two occasions.
“In September, there may be some revisions to Chief Justice Harold Melton’s order as it pertains to grand juries,” she said. “Mrs. Greene has indicated that pending a revision of that order, the case would take priority in presenting to a grand jury.”
How soon the defendant’s case can go before grand jurors, she said, remains an unknown.
“The courts have been given recent instruction from the Georgia Supreme Court that that 90-day requirement for bond has been suspended during this pandemic time,” she said. “I do have every reason to believe that, soon, we will be allowed to convene grand juries, or a mechanism of some type will convene grand juries."