Murder trial be­gins with graphic de­tails

The Covington News - - Front Page - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­

Al­though nearly im­pos­si­ble to con­firm, Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tions Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner Dr. Eric Ea­son tes­ti­fied Thurs­day that Tim Clements could have died not only from blunt force trauma to the head, but also smoth­er­ing.

Found June 12, 2009 in Snap­ping Shoals Creek, the body of the 53-year-old land­scaper was found by two teenagers out fish­ing. Like the plot line of a hor­ror movie, one teen at­tempted to pull a blan­ket off what he as­sumed was a dead an­i­mal, only to have a leg slide out.

In the sec­ond day of the death penalty trial of Pablo Fer­nando Mal- don­ado, 25, ju­rors heard more about the sci­ence in­volv­ing in solv­ing Clements’ murder, while the first day of the trail fo­cused on the emo­tions in­volved in his death.

In her open­ing state­ment, Dis­trict At­tor­ney Layla Zon told ju­rors that Mal­don­ado was the ring­leader of a group that con­spired to rob and kill Clements, who was Mal­don­ado’s boss. Along with Mal­don­ado, Brit­tany Beasley, 21, Chris­tian Cald­well, 20, and Ka­tria McClain, 19, have been charged with Clements’ murder. Zon told ju­rors that Mal­don­ado lured Clements to the du­plex where he lived (and Clements owned), telling him the va­cant apart­ment across from

him had been van­dal­ized. The plan was for Cald­well to stand be­hind the door with a base­ball bat and strike Clements in the head.

Then-preg­nant Beasley and McClain, who was just 16 at the time, were sup­posed to clean up af­ter­ward. Al­though McClain helped plan the crime, she was not present when it hap­pened. Zon said that Cald­well struck Clements and then, when he went down but didn’t die im­me­di­ately, Mal­don­ado beat him with a ham­mer.

In­deed, the med­i­cal ex­am­iner said that there were 12 dif­fer­ent frac­tures inside the skull af­ter it was opened.

“Noth­ing by the end of this trial will sur­prise you,” Zon told ju­rors Mon­day, say­ing that as early as Tues­day of that week, the group be­gan plan­ning to kill Clements. “They ac­tu­ally set their alarm clock so they could get up on time, be ready and be in place to kill this guy... You hear about bit­ing the hand that feeds you? This guy was strik­ing the head of the man who fed him.”

Mal­don­ado’s at­tor­ney, Stephen Yekel, con­ceded that Clements helped Mal­don­ado. He lent him money, helped him get ve­hi­cles, a place to live and util­i­ties, then he took an amount out of Mal­don­ado’s check when he was paid by Clements who owned the land­scap­ing com­pany Mal­don­ado had worked at for about three years. How­ever, he de­scribed Mal­don­ado as a per­son who em­bel­lishes and that peo­ple didn’t take se­ri­ously. He also said that while Mal­don­ado helped plan the murder, he didn’t ac­tu­ally strike Clements, and that the ring­leader was Cald­well, not Mal­don­ado.

“You’ll be the judge as to who was the mas­ter­mind,” he told ju­rors.

McClain’s mother Laki­tisha tes­ti­fied that her daugh­ter was a girl who typ­i­cally would abide by the rules. She knew the teen was dat­ing Mal­don­ado, but had no idea that any­thing was be­ing planned. She said Mal­don­ado, as well as Cald­well and Beasley, would come over to the house and oc- ca­sion­ally eat din­ner. One night, days be­fore the murder, Ka­tria — with Mal­don­ado stand­ing be­side her — asked to bor­row a ham­mer so that Mal­don­ado could nail the win­dows shut. She re­port­edly told her mother it was be­cause they had kicked a girl out and they didn’t want them sneak­ing into the home.

The night be­fore the murder, she asked her mother if she could go over to Mal­don­ado’s house the next morn­ing and help Brit­tany Beasley babysit in the early morn­ing — around 6:30 a.m. McClain didn’t show the next morn­ing, and both Cald­well and Mal­don­ado came to her home search­ing for her.

She also came to her mother fol­low­ing the murder, that she, along with Mal­don­ado, told her mother Mal­don­ado was an il­le­gal im­mi­grant and that INS was search­ing for him. She wanted per­mis­sion to spend time with him in Cal­i­for­nia, and she was told no. Al­though she didn’t see her daugh­ter leave, the next time she would see, her would be af­ter she had been ar­rested for murder.

Gabriel Khouli /The Cov­ing­ton News

The state seeks the death penalty in the trial of Pablo Mal­don­ado, left, for a 2009 murder.

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