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Sumner finally going to trial

By Walter Geiger Judge Tommy Wilson, who had been assigned the case only a week previously due to a recusal by Judge Bill Fears, set a trial date for Bobbie Jo Sumner at a change of venue hearing at the Butts County courthouse July 7. Sumner is charged with first degree vehicular homicide, hit and run and four counts making false statements in connection with the June 29, 2013 death of Alexandra Noelle Desir on Rose Avenue in Barnesville. Sumner was in court with her attorney Bubba Head. Her mother and two co-workers were also in court to support her. Assistant district attorney James Moss represented the state. Head sought a venue change to Monroe County, citing extensive coverage of the case by The Herald Gazette. He took issue with story wording, including what he said were allegations Desir ‘˜suffered’ and ‘˜was left to die’. Head said his information was Desir died on impact – an assertion that had not been previously made in open court. He also decried information that ‘Sumner had run up on the sidewalk and hit this girl’. Moss noted the Georgia State Patrol had released erroneous information at one point regarding those facts. ’The newspaper is the backbone of that community. These stories have usually been on the front page with a photograph. I, myself, have been in several of the photographs,’ Head told the judge. The defense attorney alleged Sumner had received threats from people in Butts County and did not want the trial held there. Moss, arguing against a venue change, cited various case law. ‘It is not common to grant a change of venue,’ he said. At that point, Judge Wilson reported he had not heard enough to move the trial. ‘I read that paper every week and this case does not stand out to me,’ he said. Head then decided to examine Sumner under oath. She testified she lost her job at Reliable Mart here after the incident and went to work at a truck stop in Butts County. It was there she was involved in a verbal altercation. She also got threats via social media, she testified. Her boss finally transferred her to another location owned by the same company in Spalding County and the threats diminished, Sumner said. She cited Herald-Gazette coverage of her boyfriend, and one time codefendant, being a black male as the cause of some of the problems. ‘I don’t discriminate,’ Sumner said. She reported she had changed her phone number four times due to threats in which she was called a ‘˜murderer’ or a ‘˜killer’. Those calls came from numbers listed as ‘˜unknown’ on her phone, Sumner continued. Sumner also alleged she did not withdraw from a plea deal at a hearing here March 13, arguing Judge Fears refused to accept what she had agreed to. Moss argued there were not enough facts to move the trial from Barnesville and Judge Wilson agreed. ‘I am going to deny your motion and keep the venue in Lamar County. Be ready to go July 24,’ the judge told the attorneys. Moss raised the issue of possible difficulties in gathering witnesses in that time span. Head also had scheduling issues with that week but said he could make it work. Judge Wilson made it clear he was going to try the case the week of July 24 in Lamar or the week of July 31 in Monroe. Both Moss and Head agreed July 31 would work better. Moss checked in with district attorney Jonathan Adams. Judge Wilson confirmed a jury had already been called for July 31 in Monroe County. That was done as a precaution due to anticipated workload following a lengthy death penalty trial there. Judge Wilson finalized his decision in the form of an order.

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