COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A Columbus man scheduled to plead guilty in connection with a local murder case has changed his mind.
Forty-two-year-old Rickey Powell was scheduled to enter a guilty plea before Muscogee County Chief Superior Court Judge John Allen Monday morning but at the last minute, opted to have his case heard by a jury at trial.
Columbus Police say Powell was one of 70-year-old Herta Bailey's tenants who was about to be evicted back in October of 2008. The two had a meeting at Bailey's real estate office, Land Inc., near the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Whitesville Road. There, investigators and prosecutors say Powell killed Bailey, stole her car and began using her credit cards to pay his bills, later leading officers to her body in the trunk. Authorities say the mother of three had been strangled to death.
Powell says the last time he saw Bailey she was alive.
His attorney, public defender Robert Wadkins, says the decision not to enter a guilty plea was Powell's choice and he does not know why he changed his mind and chose to go to trial. Wadkins says Powell was supposed to plead guilty to murder, not a lesser charge, and receive a mandatory life sentence.
"The law of the legislature is now that in a murder case, a conviction, you must wait 30 years before you're eligible for parole and that's an incentive to go to trial rather than to plea to a case. He, of course, has lots of things to weigh in his decision-making process and the decision is entirely up to him and we respect that and we'll do what he wants to do," Wadkins said outside of court.
Herta Bailey's daughters, Eileen Oravic and Tina Womack, spoke to the media outside of court as well. Oravic, who is also a realtor like her mother, says Rickey Powell had made promises to her mom for four to five months before her murder, trying to set up a payment plan but says things had come to an end and the Sheriff's Office was getting ready to move him out. "Basically, he didn't get his way and had a temper tantrum. It's just sad to see my mother die such a brutal, violent death over an eviction. Nothing is going to bring her back but having him in jail for 30 years will at least make our world a safer place to live," she said.
"Whether he gets 30 years from the court system or not, as far as I'm concerned, God his going to give him the ultimate punishment ," Womack added.
Herta Bailey's daughters say their mother's death has changed the way local realtors do business.
"We've had situations in Columbus within the last two years where men have pretended to be buyers to try to lure a female realtor into a dangerous situation. I think we're all being more cautious and really looking out for each other nowadays, more so then we have in the past. If I don't know a potential buyer then I take someone with me to view the property. I'm not at the office by myself at certain hours," Oravic said.
Rickey Powell's trial is set for November 15th.
Along with murder, he faces charges of aggravated battery, robbery, theft by taking of a motor vehicle, concealing the death of another person and five counts of financial transaction card fraud. He pleaded not guilty to all of those charges Monday.
Powell remains in the Muscogee County Jail.