Blue Ridge, Ga. – The two defendants recently arrested for the murder of 33 year old Justin McKinney on Tuesday, Dec. 4 made their first appearance in a Fannin County courtroom today.
Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver presided over this initial hearing to establish representation for the defendants as well as grant permission for two motions being made by Defense Attorney David Farnham.
Both of the 15 year old defendants made their way into the courtroom shackled and displaying a calm demeanor. Blake Dickey (AKA Blake Dye) had already obtained legal representation through Farnham, but co-defendant Hunter Hill opted for a Public Defender.
Public Defender Clint Hooker was present to represent defendant Hunter Hill.
“I believe our office does have a conflict as we have represented at least one of the victims,” Hooker stated of the ability of his office to represent Hill. Due to this conflict of interest Hooker was only present to answer questions for Hill, but Hill’s Public Defender for future hearings will be assigned at a later date.
The boys sat quietly as Weaver read the charges, and replied with a “yes” only when asked if they understood the charges against them. Currently both juveniles have been charged with felony murder.
According to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a 911 call came into Fannin County dispatch at approximately 12:50 a.m. the morning of Dec. 4. The caller, 35 year old Anna Franklin, indicated that she and a male victim, McKinney, had been shot.
When Fannin County deputies arrived to a home off of Elrod Lane, McKinney was deceased. Franklin was taken to a hospital with trauma care for treatment.
Sources have told FetchYourNews that McKinney had received a fatal gunshot wound to the head, and that Franklin was also shot at point blank range. She, however, deflected the shot by throwing up her arm in a defensive stance.
According to these sources, the bullet entered and exited the arm before entering Franklin’s face and becoming lodged in the neck.
While both juvenilles have been charged with felony murder relating to the death of McKinney, neither have been charged with the attempted murder of Franklin.
Weaver addressed a consent order that she had received via Dickey’s attorney Farnham : “One of the things that was emailed to me was a consent order signed by you (Farnham) on behalf of your client and Ms. Sosebee on behalf of the state requesting a motion and order for blood test examination.”
Debate arose as to whether this testing had already been done with Dickey claiming that blood had already been drawn. Through further discussion it was determined that the blood drawn at the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center was for the purpose of medical screening.
Parties agreed to have the blood testing done on Dickey. District Attorney Alison B. Sosebee explained, “At this point in time the current arrangements would be after the first appearance here there will be a transport of Mr. Dickey, also known as Mr. Dye, back to the Dalton facility. Prior to him being transported to the Dalton facility he will be taken to Fannin Regional Hospital for that blood draw to occur.”
Questions arose for the need of this test since the incident occured several days ago. This led some to speculate that the testing’s purpose is to check for drug use by the defendant.
Drugs have been a common rumor circulating via social media regarding the motive of the young men to commit murder. While there has been no confirmation of drugs directly relating to the crime, it is confirmed that family members of the defendants as well as the alleged victims themselves have a history of run-ins with local law enforcement over drug related charges.
Family members were not present at the hearing today which led to Weaver question counsel: “Were the parents not invited to the hearing this morning?”
Weaver also questioned if family of the alleged victims had been notified of the hearing. With short notice being given prior to this hearing, it was discovered that not all parties had been contacted.
“In the future we really need to notify the parents if we hear anything about hearings,” Weaver spoke to defense and prosecution.
“I just want to put on the record that I was informed that my client was taken from school, handcuffed, and was brought down for interrogation at the sheriff’s department without counsel and without his mother’s knowledge or any custodial parents,” Dickey’s attorney, Farnham, stated before dismissal at the hearing. “I do not want any further interrogation of my client unless counsel is present.”
This request brought the realization to many in the courtroom that after allegedly committing murder the two young defendants then went to school the next day, carrying on routine as though nothing had happened just hours previously.
Agreement was made that no further interrogation would conducted without counsel present. Weaver added of this decision, “Certainly that will go for both defendants because the court has now provided an attorney for Mr. Hill.”
Bond was not requested for either of the defendants at this initial hearing. Farnham stated that he would like more time to review all of the circumstances surrounding the case, and that due to threats being made on social media that there is a possibility that for, at least his client (Dickey), bond might not be sought at all.
After the hearing today the boys were transported to separate detention facilities. Hill will be transferred to Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center and Dickey will return to Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center.
While both youths are being charged and tried as adults, Georgia state law mandates that they be held in juvenile detention centers until the age of 17.
If convicted of felony murder both Hill and Dickey face a sentence of life in prison. According to Georgia law since the crime has been committed while the defendants were only 15 years of age they are both ineligible for the death penalty.
More charges are expected as GBI continues their investigation, and there is rumor of a possible third suspect being involved in the case. FetchYourNews will bring you the latest as this story unfolds.
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