It was Valentine’s Day, 2011. Kevin Harmon, a 25-year-old father of a kindergartner, withdrew $40 from an ATM. He never had a chance to spend it.
Three young men watched him make the withdrawal. They hatched a plot to rob him. As it turned out, they did much more than that.
Before the sun rose, Kevin’s body lay lifeless by a lake in Spalding County. He had been stabbed several times. Most of his wounds were blows to the head and upper body from a baseball bat. The killers hit him over 40 times with the bat. His teeth were driven into his mouth. His skull was crushed over and over again.
During the struggle for his life, Kevin had managed to take one of the knives and stab an attacker. The killers had to explain that to authorities. So they claimed that they were victims of a robbery. They even applied for victim assistance funding. That is money earmarked for true victims, not for cold-blooded killers.
Fortunately, the Griffin Police Department and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Department weren’t buying the lie. They arrested the three killers and one, who was not quite 17 years old, began to talk. His statement implicated the others.
This meant that we would not be able to try all three at the same time. That’s because the other defendants would not have a chance to cross-examine the one who talked if he chose to remain silent at trial. The Constitution won’t allow that.
When we got the case, our first decision was whether to try the 16-year-old as an adult. That was easy—he needed to answer for his actions in “big boy court.” Then Michael Rogers, who would be prosecuting his first murder case, had to decide who to try first. He chose the one who gave the statement. That trial happened last fall. The jury convicted on all counts. Judge Tommy Hankinson delayed sentencing until the others had been tried.
We had that trial last week. This time Michael was assisted by a new addition to our Spalding office, Marie Greene Broder. I watched with pride as both prosecutors immersed themselves into the grisly case.
Finally, on Thursday Michael stood up to deliver his closing argument. Thursday was Valentine’s Day, the two-year anniversary of the murder. On the left side of the courtroom were the families of the defendants. On the right side were Kevin’s family and friends. The courtroom was almost full.
Kevin’s supporters wore pink. That had been his favorite color. I glanced at my staff. Secretaries, lawyers, investigators and victim’s advocates who haven’t had a raise in over five years had bought pink items of clothing. Pink ties. Pink shirts. Pink scarves. Pink blouses.
Michael brought it home with a powerful closing argument. The next day the jury convicted the remaining two defendants of all charges.
Afterward, Kevin’s family delivered him a Valentine gift. The post office doesn’t deliver to heaven, so they sent it the best way they could. They released about 40 pink and black balloons into the sky.
Michael looked over at Kevin’s son, now eight years old. He’s been in therapy because he dreams that three monsters are chasing him with knives. Michael knelt in front of him and said, “You don’t have to worry about those monsters anymore. I’ll do everything I can to see that they never have a chance to bother you again.”
One week later, Judge Hankinson sentenced all three killers to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus five years.
The monsters are gone.