Leonard makes first court appearance in Lee Co., enters no plea - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Desmonte Leonard makes first court appearance, enters no plea

The man charged with three counts of capital murder in Saturday's shooting in Auburn was back in Lee County for his first court appearance. 

Desmonte Leonard, 22, is facing capital murder charges in this weekend's fatal shooting at the Auburn apartment complex, near Auburn University. 

Auburn officials apparently picked up Leonard from the Montgomery County Detention Facility early Thursday morning. He was taken to the Lee County Detention Center where he was taken in for booking.   

For security reasons, he was brought into the building at a secret location. He wore street clothes as his arms and legs were secured in shackles. 

He was formerly charged with three counts of capital murder and two counts of second-degree assault Thursday. Leonard acknowledged he understood the charges against him. He entered no plea, but he has 30 days to do so. 

The state says Leonard cannot afford his own representation, so three Montgomery attorneys were appointed to represent Leonard in his defense. 

The lead defense attorney on the case, Susan James, said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that her team will seek a change of venue, since Leonard does not feel that he will get a fair trial in Lee County.   

James, a high-profiled attorney, helped facilitate his surrender. She added Leonard was transported back to Montgomery County jail Thursday as a part of a deal made with authorities for him to turn himself in.  She added, it also relates to his safety.  

James would not comment on whether or not Leonard was hiding in an attic during a standoff outside a Montgomery home earlier this week. 

Leonard turned himself in to U.S Marshals in Montgomery after three days on the run. 

"He was very cooperative when he turned himself in," Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson.
"Very cooperative and he actually offered an apology for what he did. He told investigators he was sorry."

Dawson added that the apology did not amount to a confession.

A preliminary hearing will be scheduled within the next month.  A date for that has not been set at this time.

Funerals plans for victims 

In the meantime, the funeral plans have been made for the three men killed in a shooting.  

The funeral for Ladarious Phillips will be Friday, June 15 at 1 p.m. local time at the Handley High School gym in Roanoke, Alabama. In lieu of flowers, his family has requested donations be made to Small Town Bank of Roanoke for his daughter.

Ed Christian's funeral is planned for 1 p.m. EDT Saturday at the J.E. Mathis Municipal Auditorium in his hometown of Valdosta, GA.

The service for Demario Pitts will be held at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT Friday at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Loachapoka, AL.

John Robertson, one of three injured in Saturday's shooting, remains in critical condition at the UAB Medical Center while Xavier Moss and Eric Mack were released from the hospital and returned home.

Students to hold vigil for victims  

A group of Auburn students are planning a candlelight prayer vigil to remember Christian and Phillips. The vigil will be held Thursday at 8 p.m. at Samford Park.

We'll have a live report of the day's development's beginning on News Leader 9 at Five. 
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