A Statesboro teen was indicted Dec. 5 on felony murder charges related to a Sept. 28 incident when he crashed his car into a Swainsboro fast food restaurant.
Oliver Baylen Cope of Old River Road North, also faces multiple charges of aggravated assault, according to a copy of the indictment provided by the Emanuel County Clerk of Courts office as requested by the Statesboro Herald.
According to Swainsboro Police Chief Randy Ellison, Cope, 18, plowed through the Swainsboro Taco Bell on South Main Street around 4 p.m. Sept. 28, a Thursday. He drove across five lanes of traffic at a high rate of speed, crashing into the building and killing 23-year-old Macy Lynn Purvis Mullis of Adrian. The crash also injured a 7-year-old boy and a 1-year-old boy who were trapped underneath the car, as well as injuring the children's mother, Sara Rose Kersey, 24, of Adrian, and another customer, Javier Rodrigues, 42, of Swainsboro.
The 7-year-old and Rodrigues were rushed to an Augusta hospital in critical condition while Kersey and the younger boy suffered minor injuries and were stable, Ellison said during a September interview.
Cope was indicted on two counts of felony murder; one count of first degree criminal damage to property; and eight counts of aggravated assault.
The first count of felony murder was for Mullis’ death in connection to the felony charge of first degree criminal damage to property (driving the car through the restaurant).
The second count of felony murder is related to the felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (the car), according to the indictment.
Count 4 of the indictment, aggravated assault, is related to Cope’s Charger running over and killing Mullis. Count 5, aggravated assault, is for his running over the 7-year-old.
Count 6 (aggravated assault) stems from his car striking the children’s mother, Kersey. Count 7 (aggravated assault) relates to the car striking and injuring the 1-year-old, the indictment read.
Count 8 of the indictment, (aggravated assault) is due to Cope’s car striking Rodrigues; and Counts 9, 10 and 11 (aggravated assault) stems from his driving the car into the restaurant while victims Shannon Kepler, Angie Wilkerson and Shane English were inside.
Ellison said after impact, Cope walked out of the crash, looked around at the chaos, and approached a Swainsboro police officer to identify himself as the driver. He never gave a reason as to why he apparently intentionally drove into the restaurant.
"We have no idea" why, Ellison said, adding that there is no known link between Cope and Swainsboro, the Taco Bell or anyone inside. None of the eight customers inside, nor the employees, knew Cope, he said. "There is no motive at this time."
The incident happened so fast, patrons at the restaurant had no time to react, he said. "I don't think (Cope) was in his right frame of mind."
When asked his reasons for the act, Cope asked for legal representation and did not divulge why he purposely drove into the restaurant, he said.
Cope is a 2017 honor graduate of Bulloch Academy and was attending the University of Georgia, Ellison said.
As of Tuesday, there had been no court date set for the criminal trial against Cope, said Carla Daughtry, deputy clerk with the Emanuel County Clerk of Courts office.
In addition to the criminal charges, Cope and his parents, Dr. Atys Cope and Michelle Cope of Statesboro, are named as defendants in five civil complaints regarding the crash, all filed in Bulloch County State Court, according to information provided upon request from Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Heather McNeal.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.