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Rodricus Scott sentenced to life without parole for killing Henry in front of child
Scott represented himself, and a 10-year-old testified
Rodricus Darnell Scott
Rodricus Darnell Scott

While media attention was fixed on another trial this week in the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, a jury there convicted Rodricus Darnell Scott, 43, of felony murder and other charges and a judge sentenced him to life without the possibility of parole for killing James Edwin “J.J.” Henry, 23, with a gunshot on June 17, 2020.

The two other charges on which Scott was convicted are aggravated assault, also for shooting Henry, and first-degree cruelty to children, for killing him in the presence of a child. The child, a boy who was 8 when the shooting occurred and so is now 10-11 years old, testified during the trial.

Scott’s two-day trial occurred simultaneously, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the last two days of the trial of William Marcus “Marc” Wilson, which extended five and a half days after two days of jury selection. The two unrelated cases, resulting from two shooting deaths within Statesboro less than four days apart in the summer of 2020 – the deadliest year in Bulloch County’s recent history – presented some contrasts.

Wilson, 23, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted of all other charges in connection with the predawn June 14, 2020 shooting death of Haley Hutcheson, 17, and has a sentencing hearing slated for September 20, was represented by a team of four and at times five defense attorneys.

 

Had no lawyer

But Scott, after dismissing a Georgia public defender earlier in his process and attempting to bring in a Florida private attorney, represented himself at trial. In legal terms, he was a defendant appearing “pro se,” from the Latin meaning “for oneself.”

Senior Assistant District Attorney Benjamin T. “Ben” Edwards, who prosecuted the case for the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, noted that a defendant has a right to do this but that it is very unusual in a homicide case.

“It is unusual. We don’t see a whole lot of pro se defendants in really any felony charges due to the serious nature of the case,” Edwards said. “It certainly does add some challenges for the court to deal with, more so than us, to ensure that his rights are protected as we go along in the trial.”

Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael T. Muldrew, who presided in the case, signed a “findings of fact” order Tuesday detailing how Scott came to trial with no defense attorney.

At an Oct.  22, 2020 bond hearing, attorney Stephen R. Yekel, chief conflict public defender for Georgia’s Southeast Region, had announced he would be representing Scott. But at the end of the day, Yekel informed the court that Scott had told him he would not need his services.

“The Court advised Mr. Scott of the seriousness of his charges and the importance of having legal counsel,” Muldrew stated. “Mr.  Scott appeared both to comprehend and not be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol and affirmed so upon the Court’s inquiry.”

Six days later, Scott told the court he had hired a Florida attorney, Timothy Cox, who then appeared on Nov.  10, 2020, and informed the court he would need temporary case-specific Georgia Bar admission to appear for Scott.  But there was no further contact with Cox despite an attempt to reach him, Muldrew wrote, as he began to notify Scott of events leading to trial.

Muldrew noted that he conducted a formal inquiry with Scott April 25 2022, over his intention to represent himself, and attempted to conduct another inquiry July 15, “but he was non-cooperative.” The court proceeded with jury selection Aug. 16, and Scott “expressed that he understood, and proceeding willingly and of his own volition,” the judge wrote.

Edwards said having a 10-year-old child testify was another unusual aspect of the trial.

The Statesboro Herald did not have a reporter at the trial but is summarizing what happened based on interviews with Edwards and Statesboro Police Department Capt. Jared Akins and documents available in the Clerk of Courts’ file.

 

The fatal night

The fatal shooting occurred just after 9 p.m. June 17, 2020, at 117 East Main Street, the home of Amos Hodge and Linda Henry. Hodge was the father of Scott’s wife, Dennie Scott, and Linda Henry was the homicide victim’s maternal grandmother.

Rodricus Scott went to their home to confront his wife about some texts he had seen on her phone, according to the prosecutor and lead investigator.

“He had looked at Ms. Scott’s phone and seen text messages that he thought indicated that she was cheating on him,” Akins said.

When Scott appeared with a gun, Hodge got up and tried to intervene, according to the story from witnesses, which Akins summarized in a phone interview Friday.

“Rodricus pushed him (Hodge), and then J.J. got up and basically put himself in between Amos and  Dennie and  Rodricus, and that what was  when the shooting happened,” Akins said.

Rodricus Scott, fired one shot from a .38-caliber revolver, striking James “J.J.” Henry in the neck and head area, according to the investigator. Henry was dead at the scene when police and the Emergency Medical Service arrived. A .38-caliber bullet, recovered from Henry’s head during the autopsy, was matched by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab to Scott’s revolver, recovered that evening by police, Edwards said.

But the incident had not ended with the fatal shot. Linda Henry went to a bedroom, returned with a .9 mm handgun she owned, and started shooting at Scott in the living room before throwing the pistol down on the couch, where Hodge grabbed it and fired several more shots at Scott, Akins said.

Scott had arrived in a truck, but he fled down the street on foot. A car parked near the house was hit by some of the bullets. Scott was hit in leg and an arm by apparently three bullets but, after being taken into custody by police, was treated at East Georgia Regional Medical Center and soon released, according to Akins.

Statesboro Police Department crime scene Detective Keith Holloway had spotted Scott, bleeding but still mobile, at the intersection of East Main and Packinghouse Road within half an  hour after the  shooting, and detained  him  until patrol  officers arrived,  Akins  said.

Meanwhile, SPD officers and the Georgia Southern University Police Department’s canine  unit had  set  out from the East Main Street home in the direction Scott fled. SPD Detective Dustin Cross saw what he thought were blood droplets on some stairs at Hill Street and Zetterower Avenue, and recovered  the .38 revolver and some shell  casings  from the bushes.

 

Witnesses at trial

Amos Hodge died in April 2021 of injuries sustained in automobile accident.

But Linda Henry and the now 10-year-old testified. Akins, Holloway, Cross and former SPD Advanced Patrol Officer Cameron Reese, now a Georgia State Patrol trooper, all testified during the trial. All or most of these officers also testified at the Wilson trial.

Scott called no defense witnesses.

After receiving the case around 11:25 a.m. Wednesday, the jury had lunch and then returned a verdict around 3 p.m., according to Edwards. The jury acquitted Scott of malice murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, charges also  included in the  2020 indictment.

However, Georgia’s limited sentencing options for felony murder, or causing a death by committing a felony, in this case aggravated assault, are the  same  as for a  non-capital malice murder: life imprisonment with or without  the possibility of parole.

Muldrew merged the aggravated assault charge into the felony murder conviction in imposing the sentence of life without parole and sentenced Scott to 20 years for child cruelty, consecutive to the life sentence. 

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