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Wingate v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

October 20, 2014

WINGATE
v.
THE STATE

Page 834

Murder. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Christian, Senior Judge.

David J. Walker, for appellant.

K. David Cooke, Jr., District Attorney, Dorothy V. Hull, Shelley T. Milton, Assistant District Attorneys, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Meghan H. Hill, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

NAHMIAS, Justice. All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 835

Nahmias, Justice.

Justin Wingate appeals his convictions for the murder and armed robbery of Michael Wilkins.[1] We affirm.

[296 Ga. 22] 1. (a) Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. Wilkins was Appellant's godfather; Appellant sometimes referred to him as " daddy." Wilkins had dated Appellant's mother, and he remained in contact with Appellant after the relationship ended. On Saturday, January 23, 2010, Shantia Horton drove Appellant, Adrian Sparrow, and Tavion Simms from Decatur, where they lived, to Macon, where Wilkins lived alone, in her car. Appellant told his friends that he wanted to get money from Wilkins. Horton testified that Appellant said his godfather would not be home when they arrived, and she did not think that the visit was " robbery-type." Sparrow told the police, however, that Appellant said that he was planning to rob his godfather.

According to Horton's trial testimony and Sparrow's statement to the police, the following happened once the group arrived at Wilkins's house. Appellant went inside the house alone. After about 20 minutes, Sparrow and Simms also got out of the car. Simms went into the house, while Sparrow stayed in the driveway. Horton and Sparrow did not hear any gunshots. About five minutes later, Appellant, Simms, and Sparrow returned to the car. Appellant indicated that he had gotten $14,000, and he gave $3,000 in $100 bills to each of his companions. When asked how he got the money, Appellant said, " I did what I had to do." The group then returned to Decatur, arriving around 4:00 p.m.[2]

Two days later, on Monday, January 25, after Wilkins did not show up for work or answer his phone or door, a co-worker and a neighbor together called the police, who found Wilkins dead in his house. He had been killed by a single gunshot to the back of his head as he was going down the stairs toward his basement and the door leading to the garage. When the police arrived at the house, Wilkins's [296 Ga. 23] Toyota Tundra truck was parked in the driveway, neatly covered with

Page 836

a cloth cover; his Land Cruiser was in the garage; and the doors to the house were locked. There were no signs of forced entry; the police determined that the front door automatically locked when shut. The interior of the house was largely undisturbed, and Wilkins's wallet, high-end electronics, keys to the Land Cruiser, and $387 in cash in the top drawer of his dresser all appeared untouched. However, his mattress had been moved, as if someone was looking under it, and a small safe in his bedroom closet was open and contained only papers; it did not appear that the safe had been pried open. At trial, Wilkins's brother and two neighbors testified that he usually kept cash in a safe in the house. Investigators found a cartridge casing from a semi-automatic gun near Wilkins's body, and they later found bullet fragments and a shell casing from a 9mm gun under the carpet where Wilkins had been found lying.

The co-worker who had called the police told them that she had been on the phone with Wilkins on January 23 and that he ended the call by saying that his godson had arrived. Phone records showed that Appellant's cell phone was present near Wilkins's home between 2:19 and 2:34 p.m. on January 23, 2010, and the GPS in Horton's car showed directions to a location in Macon. Appellant's roommate testified that when Appellant returned home that night, he had a " rubber band of money" and gave the roommate two $100 bills; Appellant would not say where he got the money. Four days after the ...


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