Attorney: Murder suspect was asked to confess by family

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In Columbus' final murder of 2008, different stories are emerging from a family split into two.

Sixteen-year old Curtis Adams is being charged with the murder of John O'Neal, who died back on December 27th.

One half of the family says he did it, the other half says he was just asked to take the blame for someone else.

In court on Monday, detectives testified that the murder stemmed from a fight between family members that started inside O'Neal's apartment off North Lumpkin Road.

Two family members there at the time of the murder point to Adams as the shooter, saying after the altercation, he pulled out a gun and shot O'Neal in the chest.

Even Adams himself, in a statement to police, admitted to killing O'Neal, saying he was acting in defense of his aunt, O'Neal's girlfriend, who he hit during the fight.

In court, though, the lawyer for Adams says the person really responsible for the shooting was his cousin, Anthony Cruise, who asked the teen to say he did it, since he was only a juvenile and they thought he would get a lighter punishment.

"The initial response of witnesses may have been covering up for this family member. I think they blamed the wrong kid, the wrong young man," said Tom Ford, the attorney for Curtis Adams.

In court, the defense had three other family members come forward who saw the shooting, two of them children.

Both children were able to vividly recount the events of that night and actually re-enacted the shooting, in which both pointed to Anthony Cruise as the shooter.

"I took a gamble putting an eleven-year-old on the stand, but I did it because I thought she was telling the truth. I believe the nine-year-old is also telling the truth, and they weren't interviewed at scene....if there is probable cause, there certainly isn't reasonable doubt that this young man with no previous history committed this act," said Ford.

Even with the clear testimony from the children, the judge still found probable cause and bound the case over to Superior Court.

Adams is being charged as an adult and is being held in the Regional Youth Detention Center with no bond.