Photo by Jesse Walker
Justin Sandiver Slaughter, a 22-year-old Madison man charged with killing his mother, Paula Slaughter, 54, and a family friend, Colin Smith, 53, appeared nonplussed Thursday during a first appearance hearing before Morgan County Magistrate.
In fact, he smiled.
During the hearing, Judge Connie Holt asked the suspect if he understood his rights, what he had been charged with, and the next steps in the process. She addressed Slaughter’s court-appointed attorney, Darell Mitchell, after the hearing.
“Your client smiled at me,” Judge Holt said.
Mitchell shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ok… I can’t explain it.”
“Are you sure he understood everything?” Judge Holt asked Mitchell. “Does he understand what he’s facing?”
“I don’t thing it’s sunk in yet,” Mitchell said.
What Slaughter is facing, according to instructions Judge Holt delivered to the defendant, is possible death or life imprisonment.
Slaughter was arrested approximately two hours after two family members found Smith dead in the driveway of the family’s Slaughter-Veasley Road. After officers arrived on Monday, Dec. 4, at approximately 5 p.m. and secured the scene and determined that Slaughter had fled, they then located the body of his mother on the front steps. Both had been killed by multiple shotgun blasts, Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley said.
Slaughter was located in a wooded area behind the house, in part, after a Georgia State Patrol trooper in a helicopter spotted his image on a thermo-imaging camera. Members of the Walton County SWAT team tossed a flash-bang device, Markley said, at the suspect and he was then taken into custody without incident.
When Judge Holt questioned Slaughter regarding the possible punishment if he is found guilty of two counts of murder, he responded “Yes, Ma’am.”
Judge Holt denied bond, she said, because the charges demand that any bond hearing be heard in Morgan County Superior Court. She also told him she had scheduled a preliminary or probable cause hearing in January. The charges may go before a Morgan County Grand Jury for indictment in March.
Judge Holt questioned Slaughter if he was or had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. “I smoked some weed before I was arrested… weed and cigarettes,” he said. “I do not drink alcohol. I don’t like it.”
Slaughter also agreed when Judge Holt reviewed a criminal record that included a 12-month probated sentence in 2013 for a theft by taking conviction.
Attorney Mitchell said he was first able to meet with the defendant on Thursday and had not decided if he would seek psychiatric testing. “It depends on the facts,” Mitchell said after the hearing. “I don’t really know at this time.”