Charges to upgrade to murder following store owner death - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Charges to upgrade to murder following store owner death

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –New details in the shooting of hardware store owner Walter Phelps, robbery apparently wasn't the motive after all, there is evidence that it was a revenge shooting.

Phelps gave police a statement that when he fired Ryan Richardson from his store in June, Richardson threatened him. 

Now that Phelps has died, the 17 -year old Richardson and two others may face murder charges.  And the D.A. says he will consider seeking the death penalty in the case.

Walter Phelps fired 17 year old Ryan Richardson in June from his job shelling peas at the P and P Garden and Hardware Center. An Albany Police Investigator testified in court that Phelps gave police a statement that Richardson threatened him.

Phelps said he was warned that Richardson would return with his goons.  All along, police have indicated that Walter Phelps shooting was part of a robbery.

And even now that a WALB News 10 investigation reveals Walter Phelps was threatened by one of the men charged in his shooting, police still refuse to confirm that.

But we confirmed it through court records.

Detective Arthur Tyler testified that when Phelps fired 17 year old Ryan Richardson, Richardson warned him he was "coming back with his goons."

Phelps was shot in the back of the neck July 3rd inside his North Slappey store. As he lay bleeding on the ground, the gunman took his wallet and left.

Three hours later, while Phelps underwent surgery, Phelps credit card was used on a shopping spree at a Polo store in Lake Park, Georgia.

Phelps died Saturday of complications from the gunshot wound and the D.A. says this is now a murder case.

District Attorney Greg Edwards said "Preliminary indications are that Mr. Phelps died as a result of the wounds he suffered in the earlier incident, so on that basis it's the state's preliminary outlook that we will be certainly upgrading the matter to homicide."

Investigators say 20 year old Jordan Harris was the triggerman in the attack. 17 year old Ryan Richardson and 22 year old Roderick Ferrell have also been charged in the shooting, and would also face murder charges.

Edwards said he would explore the death penalty.   "With any kind of robbery homicide the death penalty is something that the state will consider. And in this instance we will certainly look at it, said Edwards."

The D.A. said this investigation continues, but now as a murder.

Walter Phelp's body was sent to the Macon GBI Crime lab today for autopsy, but the results have not been reported yet.

We contacted the Phelp's family, but they said they had no comment during their time of grief.

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