In addition to criminal charges, five civil complaints were filed against a Statesboro teen charged with felony murder after crashing his car into a Swainsboro fast food restaurant in what police said appears to have been an intentional move.
Oliver Baylen Cope, 18, Old River Road North, faces two felony murder counts in relation to the death of Macy Lynn Purvis Mullis, 23, Adrian, killed Sept. 28 when Cope crossed a four-lane highway at a high rate of speed, slamming into a Taco Bell restaurant. Several others were injured, leading to eight criminal charges of aggravated assault as well as a first degree criminal damage to property charge. There has not yet been a trial date set, but the case is expected to be handled by the Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
Aside from the criminal case, the five civil complaints were filed in October and December at the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office, according to information requested by the Statesboro Herald and provided by Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Heather McNeal.
Tyler Mullis, listed on court documents as “surviving spouse and administrator of estate” for Macy Lynn Purvis Mullis, filed a civil complaint Dec. 1 against Cope and his father, Statesboro ophthalmologist Dr. Atys Benjamin Cope, for “wrongful death … injuries sustained, pain and suffering, mental and physical” of his wife.
The complaint stated Oliver Cope could be served with the summons at Georgia Regional Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Savannah. Cope had been housed at Candler County Jail after the incident, but jail spokespersons said Tuesday he was no longer held at the jail.
The complaint filed by Tyler Mullis stated Oliver Cope left the Swainsboro Burger King and sped across the four-lane highway, hitting the Taco Bell and plowing through the building, striking and running over Ms. Mullis, causing “severe and painful injuries” resulting in her bleeding “profusely” and being suffocated, leading to her death.
The complaint also holds Dr. Cope accountable, stating he is responsible for allowing his son to drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger (Police reports incorrectly referred to the car as a Charger in earlier interviews) in spite of having knowledge of Oliver Cope’s “severe depression and vivid hallucinations,” for which the document said Oliver Cope was being treated.
According to the complaint, Cope was freshman at the University of Georgia and had left the school after dropping his classes. The suit stated Dr. Cope knew his son “posed a significant and real risk to the health and welfare of others” and holds Atys Cope “vicariously liable.”
Represented by attorney Luke R. Moses with Jones, Osteen and Jones law form of Hinesville, Mullis seeks a 12-person jury trial. As well as the yet-to be determined “full value” of his wife’s life, as well as punitive damages for her pain, suffering and court costs.
Complaints filed in October
Four other civil complaints were filed Oct. 25, each one by Metter attorneys J. Kendall Gross, P.C. and Bobby Jones and Julian B. Smith of Jones & Smith PC, all representing the remainder of victims involved in the crash. All four complaints state the summons may be delivered to Oliver Cope at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah.
A complaint filed on behalf of juvenile Isaac Kersey by parents Jessica Mills (also referred in the document as Jessica Kersey) and Trent Kersey, names Oliver Baylen Cope, Atys Cope and Michelle W. Cope, Oliver’s mother, as defendants.
Identical complaints were filed by the same attorneys, on the same day, representing Javier Rodriguez, 42, Swainsboro; juvenile Jace Kersey and parents Trent and Sara Rose Kersey, and another complaint by plaintiffs Sara Rose Kersey and Trent Kersey.
Rodriguez, Isaac Kersey, Jace Kersey and Sara Kersey were all seated at tables in the Taco Bell when Cope’s car exploded into the building, according to the suits.
The Challenger struck all victims in the crash, and both juveniles (ages 7 and 1) were pinned underneath the car. The suits all cite one count per victim of negligence resulting in “excruciating pain and mental anguish” and stated Cope’s actions “showed willful misconduct, malice, and wantonness, and exhibited an entire want of care… conscious indifference to consequences.” The suits each seek an excess of $1 million in medical expenses and damages and over $10,000 in lost wages per victim.
Each suit also lists one count of negligent entrustment, stating Dr. Atys Cope and wife Michelle W. Cope “knew or should have known … (Oliver Cope) was an incompetent or reckless driver.”
The civil suit filed by Sara Kersey and Trent Kersey also seeks relief for “loss of consortium,” citing a “loss of society, affection, assistance, companionship, comfort and conjugal fellowship which is normally due a husband from a wife.”
All four complaints demand a jury trial.
No dates have yet been set for the five complaints.
Swainsboro Police Chief Randy Ellison said in September that Cope refused to answer questions about the crash, instead asking for legal representation.
After impact, Cope, a 2017 Bulloch Academy honor graduate, walked out of the crash, looked around at the chaos, and approached a Swainsboro police officer to identify himself as the driver, Ellison said. He never gave a reason as to why he apparently intentionally drove into the restaurant.
"We have no idea" why Cope committed the act, he said, adding that there is no known link between Cope and Swainsboro, the Taco Bell or anyone inside. None of the 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."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.