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Former bank exec on trial in murder, kidnapping

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The trial of a 57-year-old former bank executive began Monday, as jurors were sworn in and lawyers argued about the rules of evidence and admitting the confession of the accused.

Alfonso Mason is facing charges of murder, kidnapping, hijacking and armed robbery.

According to police and prosecutors, Mason had been living at the Suburban Lodge, an extended-stay motel in Stockbridge, for about a year. He'd been forced out of a six-figure position at an international bank in New Jersey, failed at selling real estate, become estranged from his daughter, and ended up living long-term in the motel, drinking alcohol, watching TV and struggling to pay his weekly rent.

For a while, he made his $190 payments by buying things on credit and pawning them, apparently thinking he had more money coming from his pension and only needed to make it through a tight spell. He began, according to Clayton County Police detectives, to sell off his belongings, using the help of Cynthia Hyman, a 49-year-old woman who worked at the motel, cleaning rooms.

Mason reportedly grew resentful and desperate, however, and when Hyman reminded him last March that he was being evicted, he allegedly stabbed her in the stomach five times.

The woman was found dead in a cleaning room on March 7, 2007. Neighbors reportedly heard screaming, but later told police they "didn't think anything of it."

According to police and prosecutors, Mason took a black revolver, went downstairs to the front office, and robbed the clerk, Bridgette McLemore, taking almost $2,000 out of the cash drawer. When he said he was going to rob her, McLemore recalled for the cops, she thought he was joking.

She said, "Are you serious?" and he put the barrel of the gun into the back of her neck, police said.

Mason allegedly forced the 40-year-old motel clerk into her car at gunpoint, and the two of them drove off in the silver-colored Pontiac Sunbird. Mason apparently changed his mind about kidnapping, though, circling around the Lodge, reportedly rambling about wanting to rob the manager and the motel's safe, and, according to police, dropping McLemore off on the side of the road.

Police released his picture to the media and took out warrants for the man's arrest. Seventeen days later, he walked into the police station, wearing a black and red jogging suit and carrying a black revolver in his pocket. He said he said he had seen his picture on TV and that the police were looking for him.

Mason allegedly confessed to the armed robbery immediately, and allegedly confessed to the murder during the course of a three-hour interview. Prosecutors are expected to show the video taped interview to the jury Tuesday.

Bill Dixon, assistant district attorney, said the prosecution's case will begin with the testimony of McLemore, who will tell how she was held up by the tenant she considered likable, and will include the man's long confession.

The detective who heard Mason's confession said Mason "just started losing it," before allegedly committing the crimes, and Mason thought "his life was meaningless" before turning himself in to police.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m., Tuesday.