Courson plea, pics draw questions - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Courson plea, pics draw questions

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BAXLEY, GA (WTOC) -

Jonathan Courson's plea agreement was the topic of conversation among many in Baxley Tuesday.

Courson pled guilty to felony murder, tampering with evidence and filing a false report. Judge E.M. Wilkes sentenced Courson to life in prison with the possibilty of parole.

"I was shocked," said Jo Horne, "It was such a hienous crime."

Courson was set to stand trial next week for the January 2013 murder of his wife, Mandy. He initially told investigators the couple had been the victim of a home invasion, but they quickly arrested him for the murder.

"It was not only that a woman was murdered, but her child was denied her mother for the rest of her life," Horne added.

She said she and others were surprised that the sentence included a possible parole in 25-30 years. She feels sympathy for the victim's family, as well as Courson's family and their loss as well.

The plea surprised many because the trial was just a week away. Sheriff Benny DeLoach told WTOC the negotiations began quickly over the weekend and led to an agreement.

In addition, an anonymous viewer sent photos to WTOC of Courson being led by the sheriff and chief deputy out of the district attorney's office toward Sheriff DeLoach's car. In the pictures, Courson appears without handcuffs or leg irons, but Chief Deputy Lee Sweat said Courson was secured by an electronic belt under his jail jump suit.

"The restraints that you don't see [under the clothing] work with the shock belt," Sweat said Tuesday. "It's controled by a remote and a push of the button would have incapacitated him."

Sweat said the sheriff's office has begun the paperwork to transfer Courson to the state prison system. He anticipated it would take seven to ten days for the department of corrections to process him and move him to prison.

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