MOULTRIE, Ga. (WALB) - The fourth day of the Jeffrey Peacock bench trial continued Thursday morning.
Just after lunch time, Judge James Hardy announced his verdict after hearing all the evidence in the case.
Hardy pronounced Peacock guilty on all 14 counts brought by the state.
The counts included malice murder, arson and aggravated cruelty to animals.
Peacock will serve five consecutive life sentences. Concurrent to these, he will serve 15 years, five years for each dog he killed, and 20 years for arson in the torching of the house on Rossman Dairy Road.
[ Previous trial coverage: Day 1: Jeffrey Peacock trial begins ]
[ Previous trial coverage: Day 2: Witnesses close to victims testify in Jeffrey Peacock trial ]
[ Previous trial coverage: Day 3: DNA expert testifies in Jeffrey Peacock trial; Peacock’s interview played in court ]
For the fourth day in a row, the courtroom was packed with family and friends of the victims and Jeffrey Peacock. As Hardy read guilty for each of the 14 counts, they were visibly and understandably overcome with emotion.
The fourth day of the trial began with closing arguments from the state and the defense.
Allan Sincox, Peacock’s attorney, said there is no piece of evidence that directly says what happened the night of May 14, 2016.
Peacock said he didn’t shoot the victims in his May 18, 2016 statement to investigators, the defense argued.
The defense also argued Peacock initially lied to protect himself and the memory of his friends.
During Peacock’s 911 call, he says his four friends were still inside the house. The defense argued Peacock says four because Peacock claims Jordan Croft killed the remaining four friends and then Peacock shot Croft.
Most of the blood stains collected from Peacock’s clothes are on the back of the clothes, according to the defense.
The defense argued because there aren’t many blood spatter patterns, which is what Peacock would likely have if he shot all five people at close range.
Sincox said investigators were stuck in “maybe land” trying to find alternate scenarios to what Peacock said in his interview.
Sincox also argued the only evidence the state has is what Peacock said in that interview on May 18, 2016.
The defense argued Peacock shot Croft in self-defense and anger, also adding that charge should be dropped from malice murder to, at most, voluntary manslaughter.
Sincox also argued the felony cruelty to animals charges should be misdemeanors. Peacock was negligent, Sincox said, stating that Peacock claimed to have left the front door open to allow the dogs to run out.
Sincox also said the dogs died from smoke inhalation and were found by their owners and claimed the dogs were so loyal and stayed with their owners.
Sincox argued there are two competing theories.
The state briefly argued that Peacock should be found guilty on all charges.
Jim Prine, lead attorney for the state, said “no reasonable person can believe” Peacock’s story.
Prine argued Peacock’s statement of after driving Mika Synpes home, he snorted cocaine and drank whiskey with Croft for four hours before discovering his friends were dead. Prine argued that couldn’t have happened.
Prine said Peacock betrayed his friends that night.
The defense asked the judge to redirect his verdict on the 14 charges Peacock was indicted on.
The defense did not bring any witnesses to the stand.
The mothers of the five victims begged Hardy to give Peacock the maximum sentence.
Within the last hour of trial, the state took time to humanize the victims, saying their life plans will never be fulfilled.
District Attorney Brad Shealy called this the coldest, most calculated killing he’s seen in his career.
Suzanne Williams’ statement was full of descriptions on how close she was to her only son, Reid Williams.
How Reid showed his affection by saying, “I love you more than a fat boy loves cake.”
She also recalled his Bible that was recovered in the torched house — the same Bible investigators said didn’t have any fire damage.
The fellow mothers nodded in agreement as Williams said they’ll never be able to fully recover from this tragedy.
Shealy also called upon Hardy to make sure Peacock is “never able to walk these streets again.”
Several people WALB spoke to afterward the verdict said they felt a sense of relief afterwards. Others said they agree with the verdict.
Peacock was arrested on May 19, 2016 and charged with murder and arson. Agents said the victims in the home, located on Rossman Dairy Road, were shot and the home was burned in an attempt to cover up the deaths.
Peacock was indicted on 14 charges in March 2017.
He was indicted on:
- Five counts of malice murder
- Five counts of possession of firearm during the commission of a felony
- First degree arson
- Three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals