Before a packed courtroom Thursday morning, Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson denied the request for bond for Shane Clifton Collett, who is charged with malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping and concealing the death of another, in the death of the 9-year-old girl. He will continue to be held in the Spalding County Detention Center, where he has been held since his Dec. 22 arrest.
Collett, 40, of 678 Yarbrough Mill Road, Williamson, was arrested within hours of when the girl’s body was discovered in the woods behind her home on Dec. 22. She had been reported missing the day before and was last seen heading next door to play with an 11-year-old playmate.
According to District Attorney Scott Ballard, Collett was the boyfriend of the mother of the 11-year-old and lived at the house. When asked about the cause of death, Ballard said investigators are still waiting on results from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
“I need to be a little careful with what I say,” he said after the hearing, “but it appears that she was choked to death.”
He said, “It appears she went over there to see an 11-year-old friend next door and was killed while she was there.”
Collett is being defended by attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office including Jose Guzeman, George Wheldon and Chief Public Defender Alan Adams. Guzeman’s first motion was to have cameras removed from the courtroom over concerns that pre-trial publicity could taint the potential jury pool, as area residents would see the suspect in shackles and a jail jump suit.
He also questioned why there wasn’t a hearing on the Rule 22 request from the media for cameras in the courtroom prior to the bond hearing. Hankinson said that he had met in chambers with the attorneys the day before and also asked Guzeman to show him where in the law the hearing was required.
Guzeman admitted it wasn’t in the law, but said it was in case law.
Ballard noted that the defense was presented ample opportunity to prepare, with the hearing being set on Jan. 8, and was allowed the opportunity to get the suspect street clothes, something he said usually happens for trials, not bond hearings.
“This man deserves no special treatment,” he said.
Wheldon asked for bond, saying the suspect would stay with his parents in Fayette County, so he would not be near witnesses, who lived at the house or next door. He said Collett, “a 40-year-old white male, never had a criminal record,” and “was not likely to leave the jurisdiction. We ask for bond and a reasonable one.”
In his argument, Ballard noted the charges in “the killing of a 9-year-old little girl. If he killed a helpless 9-year-old, he’s a threat to the rest of the community.”
Ballard asked that bond be denied because “based on the charges he poses a significant flight risk, and a significant threat to others including the witnesses in this case.”
The district attorney also said, “His own protection is better served if he remains in jail.”
Hankinson agreed and denied the request for bond.
Ballard said after the hearing that he is considering seeking the death penalty, but that will depend on the lab results. He said there have to be other factors and felonies involved beyond the murder.
“Right now in Georgia,” he said, “just because you senselessly kill a 9-year-old girl does not mean the death penalty.”
The trial, he said, most likely will not be held for a couple of months, as investigators from the GBI and Spalding County Sheriff’s Office gather evidence and await autopsy and lab results from the GBI crime lab.