An Albany man pleads guilty to murdering a Dougherty County Police officer in 2010 and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Judge Stephen Goss said "To that felony murder charge, how do you plead?"
Dontravius Thomas said "Guilty."
Goss said "Are you in fact guilty of such charge?"
Thomas said "Yes Sir."
On December 23rd, 2010, Dougherty County Police Lt. Cliff Rouse responded to an armed robbery of the Pitt Stop Convenience store on Sylvester Road.
Rouse chased a masked man running from the store to an adjacent mobile home park.
At 10:14 p-m Rouse made his last radio call, saying he was shot and need E-M-S.
The 39-year old father of two died as the ambulance was taking him to the hospital.
Officers found then 20-year old Dontravius Thomas hiding under a trailer with a ski mask, gun, and money from the robbery.
About 3 AM December 24, Thomas confessed to shooting Rouse, saying he did not mean to kill him.
Wednesday in exchange for dropping the death penalty,Thomas pleaded guilty to the murder and armed robbery.
Dozens of Lt. Rouse's family members and law enforcement co-workers packed the courtroom. Members of Thomas's family were also there. Many talked emotionally about Rouse's positive life, and tragic death.
One by one members of Lt. Cliff Rouse's family and co-workers took the witness chair in front of a packed courtroom, and talked about the impact of his death.
24 year old Dontravius Thomas agreed to plead guilty to murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and firearm charges. In exchange, prosecutors dropped tpossibilitylty of a death sentence. One by one Thomas pled guilty to nine charges.
Then Judge Stephen Goss sentenced Thomas to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 65 years. The Rouse family, especially his widow, made the decision to drop the death penalty in exchange for the guilty plea.
Rouse's mother Jackie Rouse said "He will never harm society again. And we as a family can accept that. That was the decision his wife made."
Thomas chose not to speak,but instead sent a letter to the Rouse family expressing his remorse.
Thomas defense attorney Jerry Word said "We are very grateful to the Rouse family, who have been very gracious. And sorry for their loss. I think this was a good resolution for everybody."
Former Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek said "I'm really happy for the family. And that's been our biggest concern all along. And the police department, the family there, I think we're all glad to have it over. Or as over as it can be."
Rouse's family said with the guilty plea they can now put this tragedy behind and move forward remembering and celebrating the life of Cliff Rouse.
Jackie Rouse said "He's gone, but he's not forgotten."
The annual Cliff Rouse Memorial Motorcycle Ride will be held March 21st, starting from the American Legion Post 30 on Gillionville Road, with the proceeds going to the COPS Foundation that helps families of fallen officers.