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Hearing postponed in beating death

By Michael Davis

A preliminary hearing for a couple accused of starving and beating an 11-year-old girl to death was postponed Friday when they appeared in court without attorneys.

Rodney and Charlott Reaves appeared in Henry County Magistrate Court but when they said they didn't have attorneys, Judge Robert Godwin postponed the hearing until they could be retained.

The two were arrested Dec. 1 when police discovered the body of 11-year-old Joella Reaves in an upstairs bedroom of their Stockbridge home. They are both charged with murder and cruelty to children. Their arrest warrants allege that Rodney, her father and Charlott, her step-mother, tied her up in the garage, starved her and beat her over the week of Thanksgiving.

The Reaves' also appeared before a Henry County Superior Court judge Dec. 17 for a bond hearing without attorneys. That hearing was waived.

Atlanta lawyers Bruce Harvey and Michael Antoniolli represented the Reaves' at their initial hearing Dec. 2 but both later said they had not been retained to represent them.

Godwin did not set a date for the continued hearing because he said the court would need to establish who would represent them before moving forward. "I did not set a reset date and I told the district attorney to try to get in touch with the people who we thought were going to represent them and try to clear that up," Godwin said.

The couple said they were in the process of trying to get lawyers but the families have said they need court-appointed attorneys.

"I find it frustrating," Godwin said. "I came in here expecting to do the hearing and hear the evidence against them."

"We're in a situation that, in my several years of experience, that I've not really seen before," he said.

Since the murder investigation began, several school employees have either resigned or were fired from the school where Joella was a sixth-grader.

At a special hearing before the Henry County Board of Education Dec. 30, Eagle's Landing Middle School counselor Patricia White was terminated for allegedly failing to report teachers' concerns that Joella was being abused.

In a closed session Wednesday, the board fired school nurse Carloyn Clemons and voted to accept the resignation of school social worker Colandra Taylor.

Clemons has announced that she will be fighting the board's decision.