Local News


Four plead not guilty of charges

By MICHAEL HALL The Brunswick News

A St. Simons Island woman's not guilty plea on charges of allegedly trying to hire a hit man to have her brother killed was announced before Glynn County Superior Court Judge Roger Lane Thursday.

Similar pleas were announced for others on the arraignment docket for unrelated cases. They included pleas from a jail guard accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate and a man accused of lying while under oath as an expert witness. A man accused of hiding a camera in a teenager's bedroom was present to enter a plea.

None of the accused individuals were called to appear before the judge because they had been pre-arraigned.

In the hit man case, Karen Abley Latham is charged with criminal solicitation to commit murder and attempt to commit murder.

She is accused of offering an undercover police officer posing as a hit man $11,500 in November 2013 to kill her brother, James Abley, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. An arrest warrant alleges Latham actually provided $1,500 to the officer to cover expenses to carry out the hit.

Latham was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in January at the request of her defense attorney, Ron Harrison.

She made her first appearance in court at a preliminary hearing Nov. 22, 2013 and was indicted by a Glynn County grand jury Dec. 5 that same year.

In the case against a former jail guard case, Johnathon Lee Thomas is facing a sexual assault charge. He was indicted in December for allegedly engaging in sexual contact in August 2013 with a female inmate in his custody at the jail. The indictment says Thomas had supervisory authority while working at the jail.

Thomas was fired Sept. 14, 2013 and Sheriff Neal Jump asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the incident, which ultimately led to the charges being filed.

The policy of the sheriff's office does not allow intimate contact between guards and inmates. Guards also are not permitted to search inmates of the opposite gender.

In the perjury case, Kenneth Blackstone, a polygraph expert hired by Guy Heinze Jr.'s defense lawyers, pleaded not guilty in writing Tuesday.

He was indicted in December for allegedly lying under oath in July 2013, when he testified at a pretrial hearing.

The indictment charges Blackstone with willfully making false statements about having the results of a polygraph test he conducted on Heinze checked by another expert, identified as Chuck Slupski, who was allegedly out of the country during the time Blackstone said he checked the polygraph.

In the hidden camera case, Kirk Murdock, a former Brunswick police officer who was indicted this past November, pleaded not guilty Thursday to allegedly placing a hidden pinhole camera in the bedroom of a female minor.

Murdock resigned from the police department in July 2013 after the initial report was made with Glynn County olice about the camera, which remained on the premises from March 1 to July 20.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at mhall@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.