Parents of Joella Reaves indicted on murder charges

By Kathy Jefcoats

Flint District Attorney Tommy Floyd will pursue the death penalty against the parents of a Stockbridge 11-year-old girl police say was starved and beaten over Thanksgiving.

Rodney Michael Reaves and Charlott Lynett Reaves were indicted Thursday on two counts of felony murder and one each of malice murder, cruelty to children in the first degree and aggravated battery in the starvation and beating of Joella Reaves.

"I intend to file notice early next week," Floyd said after a press conference where he announced the indictments.

The parents' indictments allege that the child was beaten and starved, her hands and feet bound, and she was kept in a garage from Nov. 21 until her death Dec. 1.

The couple are being held without bond in the Henry County Jail. At last report, they still did not have an attorney. Now, they will have to be represented by one who is death-penalty qualified under the state's Unified Appeal outline.

Joella Reaves, a student at Eagle's Landing Middle School, was found dead in a bedroom at the family's home Dec. 1.

But police say that incident was not the first time Joella Reaves suffered physical abuse, and that school officials knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it. Two school officials fired in the aftermath of the death investigation were also indicted Thursday.

Patricia White, a school counselor, was indicted for failure to report child abuse, a misdemeanor. According to the indictment, White got a report of abuse from members of the school staff concerning Joella Sept. 11 and did not report it as required under Georgia law.

"Certain people are designated reporters of child abuse," Floyd said. "Such as school officials and doctors. In this case, that system didn't work properly because someone didn't do their job. There was a tragic result because of it."

School nurse Carolyn Clemons was also indicted for failure to report child abuse, and for making a false statement to police, a felony.

Neither Clemons nor White could be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

However, Henry County NAACP President Rev. Daniel Edwards expressed outrage over Clemons' indictment. He said he feels that neither school officials nor prosecutors gave Clemons a fair chance to tell her side of the story.

Clemons asked the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for help on the day she said Henry County Schools Superintendent Jack Parish told her to resign or face being fired.

Earlier this month, Edwards and Clemons met with some members of Henry County's state legislative delegation, who said they would look into her case.

Edwards specifically said he is disturbed that Parish told him before Clemons met with Henry County Board of Education attorney A.J. "Buddy" Welch that the former nurse didn't need her own attorney. Clemons said she denied to Welch under questioning that she had even seen Reaves on the day when she allegedly showed signs of abuse.

"I'm not fighting over whether she saw this girl or not," Edwards said. "What I'm fighting against is that Carolyn Clemons never got due process."

An Eagle's Landing doctor whose name had not previously come up in connection with the Reaves case was also indicted. Dr. Catherine Mauer faces a single charge of failure to report child abuse. According to the indictment, Mauer saw Joella as a patient Oct. 22 and saw signs of abuse that she did not report.

"There was evidence of abuse visible on the child that she failed to report," Floyd said. "The evidence was on her report, evidence of old injuries, old abuse that she didn't report."

Grand jurors did not, however, indict Colandra Taylor, a school social worker who resigned after White and Clemons were fired.

"The grand jury didn't find that Colandra Taylor violated that statute because she never saw the child," Floyd said.

Following a standing policy of not discussing personnel matters, school system spokeswoman Cindy Foster said system officials had no comment on the case.

Although the parents have been arrested and charged, the remaining co-defendants were indicted as a special presentment. Floyd said bench warrants will be issued for their arrests. An arraignment hearing will be set in 30 to 50 days.

The grand jurors began hearing evidence at 1:30 p.m. and later deliberated until 4:15 p.m.