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Man pleads guilty to murder
Victim's body was found under house in 2011
CORTNEY COOPER
Cortney Antwan Cooper

A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing a man he considered a brother. He was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.

Bulloch County Superior Court Chief Judge William E. Woodrum sentenced Cortney Antwan Cooper, 25, of Oak Street, to life for a charge of murder, as well as five years to serve concurrent for concealing the death of another, said Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel, who prosecuted the case.

Almost four years after he went missing, the body of Orlando Quentin Hamilton, 23, was found March 2, 2011, underneath a North College Street house. An anonymus man exploring the property came upon Hamilton's skeletal remains and called to report the find. Eleven months after the discovery, Cooper was arrested when a female caller told police he admitted killing Hamilton.

On March 2, 2011, Bulloch County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jared Akins "received a phone call from an anonymous caller who refused to identify himself," Jarriel said. "The caller said that he had been examining a house that was no longer occupied at 250 N. College St. The caller indicated that he was under the residence in the crawl space when he saw what appeared to be human remains. Chief Deputy Akins attempted several times to get the caller's name but he refused to give it."

Akins contacted Statesboro Police Detective Sgt. James Winskey since the discovery was made inside the city. When detectives arrived at the home, they found human remains wrapped in a sheet.

Daniel William, a Georgia Southern University paleontologist, assisted law enforcement with the recovery of the remains.

"It was noted immediately that the clothing on the remains matched the description of the clothing that was reported to be worn by Orlando Hamilton at the time of his disappearance in 2007," Jarriel said.

The remains were turned over to Coroner Jake Futch and then transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Savannah for examination. The death was ruled a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and neck area.

A few months later, Holloway received a call from a woman who stated that Cooper told her he killed Orlando Hamilton.

"The female indicated she met Cooper while in a halfway house in 2010 after he got out of jail for an unrelated offense," Jarriel said. The woman said "Cooper told her he was on drugs at the time he killed Hamilton."

Cooper was arrested Jan. 18, 2012, near his home on Oak Street.

"Although there was no actual blood relation, Cooper told Detective Keith Holloway with the Statesboro Police Department that he and Hamilton were both raised by Hamilton's father and that Hamilton was like his brother," Jarriel said. "The indictment charging Cooper with murder alleged that Cooper struck Hamilton in the head with an object causing sharp force and blunt force trauma to the head and neck."

During the court hearing in which Cooper pleaded guilty, he said he only struck Hamilton once during a bout of "sword fighting" at 4 a.m., and said Hamilton wielded an ax while he had a "samurai" sword.

During the interview with Holloway, Cooper admitted to killing Hamilton and placing his body under the house.

"Cooper said that after he killed Hamilton, he wrapped his body in a sheet and opened a window and pushed his body onto the ground," Jarriel said. Cooper told police he walked outside and placed the body under the house, claiming "he was on drugs at the time."

In explaining how he killed Hamilton, Cooper "said that he accidentally struck Hamilton in the head during the fight and that he only hit him one time," she said.

But when Holloway confronted him with forensic evidence that was inconsistent with Cooper's story, and pointed out that that the forensic examination of the body showed multiple areas of blunt force trauma to the head and neck, including broken vertebrae, "Cooper did not offer any further explanation or dispute the evidence that showed that Hamilton was hit multiple times," Jarriel said.

Several of Hamilton's family members were present at the sentencing hearing and expressed relief that the case was resolved without the necessity of a jury trial, she said.

Hamilton's grandmother Lulu Boyd said Friday that she still doesn't understand why Cooper killed Hamilton, who she raised herself.

"I wonder why it took him so long to say he is sorry," she said. "He could have written a letter to the family or something. I don't believe he is sorry."

Boyd said Hamilton was a good man who never gave her any trouble, and spoke about the "horrible" experience of not knowing where he was or what happened to him for four years.

"It was a bad feeling — still is," she said. "I ask every day, ‘Why?' My question is always, ‘Why?'"

Boyd said Cooper's family "stopped speaking and stopped coming around" after his disappearance, and she suspects other family members knew what happened.

After Cooper pleaded guilty, Woodrum followed the joint recommendation of Daphne Jarriel and Cooper's attorney, Renada Newbill-Jallou with the Public Defender's Office and handed down the sentence.

The case had been scheduled for jury selection on June 14, "but Cooper opted to accept the state's sentence recommendation to resolve his case without a trial," Jarriel said.

District Attorney Richard Mallard said it was not a death penalty case.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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