Murder trial scheduled to begin today

By Ed Brock

One man accused of murder in the brutal slaying of his former benefactor is willing to testify that it was his co-defendant who committed the crime, the man's attorney said.

"My client had no reason to steal from (homicide victim Buford Evans of Hampton)," attorney Steve Frye said about James Stewart Odom. "The man (Evans) would give him anything he wanted."

The trial of Odom, 44, of College Park and 45-year-old Bobby Eugene Gray of Riverdale is scheduled to start today. They are charged with murder in the death of Evans, a handicapped man known for his generosity to others including Odom, in his English Road home in November 2002.

Evans was beaten and stabbed during a visit that Odom admits he made to Evans at that time. Odom had lived with Evans for a while and still owed him a large sum of money.

"We feel that we have been up front about having been there but not having committed the murder," Frye said.

Instead, Frye said his client is willing to testify that he "came upon Gray stabbing Evans with a knife" and he said the police investigation would show that, too.

Gray's attorney, Leon Hicks, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment. Previously police investigators have said both men blame the other for the killing.

Most of this morning's proceedings will be taken up in filing motions, Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Jack Jennings said, and jury selection could happen in the afternoon.

"I would like to start opening arguments Monday afternoon," Jennings said.

Previously Evans' father Eugene Evans and brother Gary Evans, both of Tifton, said they wanted prosecutors to seek the death penalty for both men, but were told the evidence precluded that option.

But only the death penalty would be a fitting punishment for the people who committed this crime, the Evans' said. Buford Evans' sister Joy Lobel of Augusta recalled the horror of the crime scene in which blood covered her brother's house and had soaked through the sofa where his body was found, frozen in the act of reaching for the phone.

"Our pastor and Gary got down on their hands and knees and tried to clean up all that blood," Lobel said. "These people, they are animals to leave someone in that condition."

The Evans family has been waiting a long time for the trial of the two men accused of killing Buford, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who was forced to walk with a cane after two light strokes and a heart attack. Eugene Evans has already traveled to Clayton County several times in expectation of a trial and planned to come to town Sunday so he could be in court Monday morning.

Angie Thompson with the Tifton Gazette contributed to this article.