Chaz Joseph Burgest is scheduled for a jury trial beginning Wednesday in Bulloch County Superior Court on murder and other charges for the death of De’onta Trowel Mosteller, 26, who was shot April 23, 2022, at Pinewood Manor apartments on Packinghouse Road.
Judge F. Gates Peed presided at the jury selection Jan. 30 in Courtroom B at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, the same day another judge, in Courtroom A, was overseeing the selection of a jury for another, unrelated murder trial. It concluded Thursday, and the verdict was previously reported.
Burgest, now 33, who was denied bond at his Aug. 5 bond hearing and arraignment, has been held at the Bulloch County Jail since April 26, the day he turned himself in at the Statesboro Police Department. That was one day after Statesboro police obtained a warrant charging him with murder and aggravated assault and asked the U.S. Marshals Service to help locate and arrest him.
At the time, Statesboro Police Capt. Jared Akins described this as a case that the SPD’s contracted Fusus video-sharing service helped solve. The service provided by the Atlanta-based Fusus company, which Statesboro’s city government contracted at an initial annual cost of $60,000 in 2021, creates a network of security cameras at cooperating locations such businesses, apartment complexes and churches that can be monitored in real time by dispatchers at police headquarters.
Charges he faces
On June 13, a 22-member grand jury returned an indictment charging Burgest with malice murder and felony murder – both for the death of Mosteller – as well as aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it is a finding by a majority of the grand jurors that probable cause exists for the charges to go to trial.
In the indictment, the statements of the murder and aggravated assault charges allege that Burgest shot Mosteller in the face with a Taurus .38-caliber revolver. A caller reported the shooting at the Pinewood Manor complex to police around 6:45 p.m. April 23, a Saturday.
Akins, in an interview with the Statesboro Herald the next week, said Pinewood Manor’s owners and management had been early adopters of the Fusus system. Since joining the police-monitored video network, the apartment complex had seen a significant decrease in crimes, he said.
Video from Pinewood Manor led to Burgest being identified as the primary suspect, the police captain said at that time, but without actually saying whether the suspect’s face was recognizable in the video.
“We didn’t know who the suspect was, but were able to identify somebody fleeing the scene,” Akins said in late April 2022. “What that allowed us to do was when a suspect flees on foot, the video trail means we can tell officers to follow this trail through the apartment complex, to see if he threw anything down, if there’s any evidence along that line of flight. Also, it lets us know where he exited the complex, and it gives us a starting point for deploying K-9 teams.”
In other words, if police need to use a tracking dog or evidence search dog, the video would show exactly where to begin instead of their having to search the entire apartment complex, Akins said then.
Motion for immunity
A motion filed two days before the trial is set to begin suggests Burgest may base his defense at trial on a claim of self-defense.
A pretrial hearing on motions previously made with the court was held Friday, Feb. 3, with a claim of immunity from prosecution apparently not being one of the issues. But Burgest’s defense attorney, David N. Ghazi of Augusta, filed a “motion to dismiss indictment and immunity motion,” that appeared in the case file Monday, dated Feb. 6.
In it, Ghazi asserts that Burgest “is immune from prosecution for using force while defending himself from forcible felonies, deadly force and great bodily injury.”
After some citations of state law, Ghazi further states: “In this case defendant Burgest was approached by Mosteller (victim) with a gun that was brandished. Mosteller pulled the gun out of his pants pocket. We believe the facts established Mosteller was the initial aggressor and was about to shoot defendant Burgest. …”
The document concludes with requests for a pretrial hearing on the motion and that the court grant immunity and dismiss the charges, or provide “any other relief” the judge decides is proper.
A call Monday to Ghazi’s phone number as listed in documents did not provide a means to leave a message. Assistant District Attorney Russell R. Jones, who is leading the prosecution, declined to comment on the case but indicated the trial is still set to begin Wednesday.
The trial is allotted three days on the court calendar.