From L to R: Anthony Peden, Christopher Salmon, Isaac Aguigui, Michael Burnett (Source: Liberty County Jail)
Isaac Aguigui is accused of being the founder of the militia group and mastermind.
Wesley Thomas being removed from the hearing
LUDOWICI, GA (WTOC) -
Three Fort Stewart soldiers appeared in court Thursday to hear what they already knew. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the trio in the deaths of a former soldier and his girlfriend.
District Attorney Tom Durden formally served Sgt. Anthony Peden, Pvt. Christopher Salmon and Pvt. Isaac Aguigui. It also means prosecutors will follow the procedures necessary to ask a jury to consider a death sentence if they convict the men in the murders of Michael Roark and his girlfriend, Tiffany York.
A fourth suspect Pfc. Michael Burnett pleaded guilty Monday on lesser charges in exchange for testimony against the three. In his hearing, Burnett explained all four were part of a group that planned domestic terrorism from within Fort Stewart and stretching to Washington. Burnett claimed the three men killed Roark and York because they knew of the plan.
The three individual hearings Thursday did not include any of the details of a plot. Instead, it focused on mapping out the hearings and motions necessary over the coming months before a trial.
The emotion of it all became too much for Wesley Thomas, York's stepfather. He lunged toward Peden during the final hearing. On Monday, prosecutors asserted Peden shot York seconds before Salmon shot Roark. Long County deputies and bailiffs subdued Thomas and removed him from the hearing. He was released from custody moments later. Durden was not sure if charges would be filed against Thomas for the attempted attack.
"It's hard for us. It's hard to see the person who took her life," explained York's mother, Brenda Thomas. "All these emotions run inside of you. And you go back to think about protecting your kids making sure they're safe. Then you're sitting there looking at the person who did this and you have all these feelings that you want to hurt them, lash out at them, make them feel what we're feeling."
The trio were each represented by attorneys from the public defender's office. They will now be assigned lawyers certified in handling death penalty cases. There is no scheduled date for their next court appearances.