Attorney says Reaves is innocent

By Kathy Jefcoats

The attorney for a Stockbridge woman facing the death penalty in the beating death of her 11-year-old stepdaughter said Wednesday his client is innocent and grieves over the loss of the child.

Atlanta attorney David Wolfe, hired to represent Charlott Reaves, said outside Henry Superior Court Wednesday that he plans to fight Reaves' murder indictment and Flint District Attorney Tommy Floyd's motion to seek the death penalty against her.

"She is innocent and the death penalty is not appropriate in this case," said Wolfe. "Mrs. Reaves did not participate in the beating of Joella. She was a very responsible mother figure in Joella's life. I feel she should not be prosecuted for this."

Joella Reaves, a Stockbridge middle schooler, was found beaten to death in her home Dec. 1. Her father, Rodney Michael Reaves, and Charlott Reaves, are charged with multiple murder counts, cruelty to children and aggravated battery. The two will be prosecuted separately.

Wolfe said Reaves grieves over the child's death but is not remorseful because she did nothing wrong.

"She's very upset over the unfortunate loss of the child," said Wolfe. "She didn't do anything to cause the death of the child." He could not, however, point a finger at the guilty party. "We'll just have to see what the state's evidence is."

Wolfe, hired by Charlott Reaves' mother, is lead counsel, assisted by Macon attorney Frank Hogue. Both are death-penalty qualified. They were in court Wednesday for Reaves' first appearance hearing. Rodney Reaves, represented by court-appointed local attorneys Gary Bowman and Philip Ruppert, attended his first appearance in March. Both defendants are slated to be arraigned June 30.

Wolfe said he would also ask for bond that day.

"I'm extremely hopeful she'll get bond," he said. "There is nothing existing that would preclude her getting bond."

Judges typically look at whether or not a defendant will be a flight risk, at risk to intimidate witnesses or to commit other felonies. They also look at the punishment facing the defendant if convicted – in this case, death.

Both parents have been held without bond since their December arrests. Wolfe said his client is out of her element behind bars.

"This is like being on another planet to her," he said. "In her lifetime she has never had this experience. She is coping but we hope to extricate her from jail as soon as possible."

Rodney and Charlott Reaves have an 11-year-old son together and both parents were gainfully employed at the time of Joella's death. Rodney spent almost 20 years in the U.S. Navy and Charlott worked in the health care field.

Because of pretrial publicity, Wolfe filed a motion for a change of venue – one of 19 motions filed on Reaves' behalf Wednesday. He said he would also fight to suppress evidence seized from the family's Stockbridge home and statements Reaves made to police.

Wolfe said a "lot of inaccuracies" have been printed about the child's death, specifically that she was starved.

"The child was not starved," he said. "I read the autopsy report and she was said to be well-nourished."

He said such inaccuracies put an "evil face" on the crime.

Three other defendants face charges they knew Joella was being physically abused and did not report it as mandated by law, a misdemeanor crime. All have pleaded not guilty.