First day of Pelham grocery store owner death trial wraps up

First day of Pelham grocery store owner death trial wraps up

PELHAM, Ga. (WALB) - Two men charged in the death of a Pelham grocery store owner will stand trial Monday.

Jerrod Johnson and Herbert Lamar Laster were charged in connection to Bob Bettison’s death, which happened in October 2018.

Bob Bettison (Source: Pelham Police Department)
Bob Bettison (Source: Pelham Police Department)
Jerrod Johnson, left and Herbert Laster, right. (Source: Mitchell County Sheriff's Office)
Jerrod Johnson, left and Herbert Laster, right. (Source: Mitchell County Sheriff's Office)

Both suspects were charged with the following:

  • Felony murder
  • Armed robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Malice murder
  • Possession of firearm during commission of a felony

Both suspects were indicted in January 2019.

First day in court:

Jury selection was underway for the trial Monday morning.

The day started with around 150 potential jurors.

Stacey Jackson, Johnson’s attorney, and District Attorney Joe Mulholland asked each potential juror specific questions to narrow down a jury. Ricky Collum is representing Laster.

The jury pool was narrowed down to 70 before breaking around noon Monday.

Update: ‪Defense attorney, Stacey Jackson asked nearly 70 potential jurors if they’ve ever walked inside of Bob...

Posted by Asia Wilson WALB on Monday, July 22, 2019

Jackson asked potential jurors how many walked through Bettison’s store. Out of about 70 people, close to half said they’ve shopped there in the past.

Mulholland said he called Bettison “Mr. Bob” like many others who visited the store.

Mulholland said this case is by far the biggest and most important case they will hear all year.

Prosecutors said Laster acted as a lookout assessing the area. Prosecutors said Laster went into the store to buy a bag of chips.

The state argued Johnson was the shooter.

Prosecutors said they believe Johnson choked Bettison, took Bettison’s revolver off his hip and shot him once.

“That was the gun Mr. Johnson took from him while he choked him from behind and later shot and killed him," Mulholland argued. "Shooting him twice and once in the head.”

Prosecutors also argued Johnson took bank bags and left the store, before returning and shooting Bettison again. Prosecutors also said Johnson took money from the cash register.

“He admits that he did in fact shoot Mr. Bettison," Mulholland said. "He admits he went back a second time because he didn’t get the right bank bags. His story is he was just trying to get the money.”

Jackson argued there are no fingerprints collected at the scene that can prove the men committed the crime.

Jackson asked a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agent on the witness stand to confirm.

“Throughout processing the store, there was no usable prints that you recovered that you can use in the investigation," Jackson asked the GBI agent.

The agent said that was correct.

Prosecutors said the GBI wasn’t able to collect any usable fingerprints from the scene, including Bettison’s.

The state will continue to bring in witnesses Tuesday when court resumes at 9 a.m.

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