Attorneys ask for change of venue and severance in Upatoi triple murder trial

Attorneys ask for change of venue and severance in Upatoi triple murder trial

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Another pretrial status hearing was held for the three accused of the January 2016 triple murder of a Upatoi family.

The suspects, who were all teens at the time, include  Raheam Gibson, 19, Jervarceay Tapley, 17, and Rufus Burks, 15, have been indicted with kidnapping, first-degree burglary, three counts of murder and two counts of theft by taking a motor vehicle.

Two out of three defendants were in the courtroom today as their defense attorneys argued for removal of evidence, severance, and change of venue weeks before the trial.

Attorney Jennifer Curry, who represents Rufus Lanard Burks, moved to suppress evidence from client's cellphone from the trial. Curry, challenging an inadequate search warrant was performed.

The state argues probable cause led to arrest of her client, Burks, and a proper arrest warrant was issued as well as search warrants.

Curry, along with defense attorney, Mark Shelnutt and William Kendrick who are representing Raheam Gibson arguing for severance.

Shelnutt says evidence could have a dangerous outcome if all three defendants are tried at once.

"It's a big danger that you are just going to throw somebody into the kitchen sink, and have a kitchen sink approach. Every person entitled to have their case judged on what the evidence is against them," said Shelnutt.

Shelnutt says his client deserves a separate trial.

"We have maintained from the very beginning that Mr. Gibson was not involved. Never went inside the house, had nothing whatsoever to do with anything, certainly not any murders, injuries, or anything," said Shelnutt.

Defense attorneys for Gibson and Burks also motioning for a change of venue.

Curry says extensive media coverage could "taint" the mind of potential jurors. She believes it will be impossible to find a fair and impartial jury in Muscogee County.

Julia Slater, representing the State, says it is too early to tell if jury selection will pose as an issue, objecting to the motion.

The judge did not make a final decision on anything today.

Pretrial motions will continue Friday, October 6 in Recorders Court.

Superior Court Judge Gil McBride has set a trial date for October 30.

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