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Couple charged with child's death

By Michael Davis

Phyllis Steed stopped at the Carriage Lake subdivision Tuesday to leave a small stuffed dog at the mailbox of the first house on the right. Just more than 24 hours prior, Steed drove by the neighborhood and had to pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles to pass as they went to 10 Carriage Lake Drive.

She didn't know what had happened but found out later that an 11-year-old girl was dead and her custodial guardians were charged with murder, just four streets from where she lives.

"I have children and it's very touching that it happened so close," Steed said.

The couple, Rodney Michael Reaves, 37, and Charlott Lynett Reaves, 38, are accused of killing Eagle's Landing Middle School student Joella Reaves some time during the week of the Thanksgiving holiday. They were arrested Monday evening and both charged with murder and cruelty to children.

According to copies of the arrest warrants, police say the couple tied the girl up in the garage and "beat her with a paddle and umbrella over several days." The warrants go on to say that "she was left with no food or water or sanitary or sleeping necessities."

The couple waived their right to appear in Henry County Magistrate Court Tuesday afternoon to hear the charges against them on the advice of their attorneys, Bruce Harvey and Michael Antoniolli.

On Tuesday morning, stuffed animals, flowers and a balloon were placed around the mailbox post of the Reaves' two-story home on Carriage Lake Drive.

Neighbors described the subdivision as quiet and some said it was a place where few neighbors talked.

Kimberly Simpson said though she didn't know the family, she recognized Charlott Reaves from a homeowners association meeting.

"It's sad that it could happen, if that is the case, right up the street," Simpson said.

Henry County Bureau of Police Services Lt. Joe Tammaro said police first responded to a 911 call around 9 a.m. Monday. When asked whether police have been to the house before he said, "It doesn't have anything to do with what they're charged with."

Transcripts of the 911 call and its origin were not available Tuesday because of the ongoing investigation, said 911 director Don Ash.

Cindy Williams, a Carriage Lake resident, said her 11-year-old son knew Joella Reaves and a male child who lived in the Reaves household.

"My son knew both of them n he's the same age (as the boy and girl). I think he played mostly with the boy," she said.

Eagle's Landing Middle School Principal Jim Davis said that Joella was a sixth grader at the school.

"She was a good student here, from my understanding," he said.

He said Joella's brother is in the same grade, though he would not provide his name.

Asked whether the Henry County Department of Family and Children's Services has ever been involved with the Reaves family, DFCS Director Phyllis Shrader said, "We have not had any previous history and we have not done any investigation in the home."

A Pate's Creek Elementary classmate of Joella Reaves last year, Brandon Meyer, 11, said, "She was nice and polite. She had friends and she made As and Bs."

Charlott Reaves, identified as Joella's stepmother in the warrant has been an employee of Henry Medical Center since April 2003, as a vascular ultrasound technician, said hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Dougherty.

Rodney Reaves has served in the U.S. Navy for 19 years, according to his attorney, Bruce Harvey. Harvey said Rodney Reaves had obtained legal custody of Joella this summer.

"Here is a man that has formerly been a Navy recruiter," Harvey said outside the Henry County Jail on Tuesday. "Both of the parties are going to vigorously defend against the charges."

Rodney and Charlott Reaves are due back in Magistrate Court Jan. 9 for a preliminary hearing, at which time the case could be bound over to Henry County Superior Court, said Chief Magistrate Judy Hayes.