By Daniel Silliman
It took him almost three hours to say it, but Alfonso Mason confessed he killed a woman who befriended him while he was down and out.
Mason, a 57-year-old former bank executive, almost immediately confessed to robbing the Suburban Lodge, the Stockbridge motel where he had stayed for more than a year before being evicted in March 2007. He readily admitted to taking a car and kidnapping the motel's assistant manager, though he called it a "so-called kidnapping."
It wasn't until the end of the interview, however, that he would say he was guilty of murdering Cynthia Hyman, a motel maid, who was helping him sell belongings, admitting, that could be the only explanation of the evidence against him.
The video recording of the confession was played for jurors Wednesday on the third day of Mason's trial on charges of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and car-jacking.
Mason told Clayton County Police Detective Tom Martin he had been planning to hold-up the place for a few days, and didn't feel like he had other options. In the video, Mason didn't try to explain the specific actions and said he only had a "blurry memory" of the sequence of events. He tried, instead, to explain how he ended up in a motel room, drinking too much, thinking of suicide, pawning off everything but his clothes, and plotting an armed robbery.
According to Mason's long explanation, he received a $70,000 pension in 2005, when he turned 55, after retiring from his position with a New Jersey bank. He came down to Georgia to be closer to his daughter. The relationship turned sour as he waited for his big check, and when he was finally paid, he spent almost everything on debts.
All he had left was about what it would cost him to live for a year. A year later, when he turned 56, he ran out of money. He pawned what he owned and began buying things with credit cards and pawning them to pay his rent. The despair reached a point, Mason recounted, where he only wanted to end it all.
In February, Mason sat in the dark, in his room, watching TV, drinking rum and thinking "nothing felt real." Money isn't real," he thought. "TV isn't real."
He pointed a .32-caliber gun at his head and he thought about ending it all. This was the last option, he said. "Unfortunately, that doesn't set it straight," Mason said to the homicide detective. "I would of just had an easy way out."
The next month, on March 8, however, he was totally broke and desperate.
"I remember I got up that morning and I knew I had to be out," Mason said to the detective. "And it was pretty much the last thing I did, because that was it."
He recalled saying, "You know what? I got to do this. I got to get some money and I got to get out of here."
Police found, and Mason admitted, he walked downstairs with an old .38-caliber revolver, held up the motel's assistant manager, Bridgette McLemore, taking money out of the cash register. He forced her out of the building and into her car, saying he didn't mean to hurt her and wouldn't kill her. He took a 2000 Pontiac Sunbird, drove around for a while, but then returned to the motel and told McLemore to get out of the car. He left a second time, and drove to DeKalb County, where he used the stolen cash to check into another extended-stay motel.
He was there for two weeks until he saw his face on TV. Mason said it was a horrible way to live and he turned himself in to police. He walked into a DeKalb County Sheriff's office, carrying the .38, which he described as the only thing he still owned. He set it on the counter in front of a deputy, and he put the bullets next to the gun.
"I said, 'Look, I'm turning myself in,' and the lady thought I was out of my mind," Mason said.
He only said he was wanted for robbery and kidnapping. Mason said he knew nothing of the murder and said he didn't know 49-year-old Cynthia Hyman was found dead in a room she was cleaning for $6 an hour.
"She's dead," the detective told him, in the recorded interview.
"What?" Mason asked.
"Yeah," Detective Martin said. "She's dead."
"And you think I did it?"
"I'm asking you."
"No," Mason says, "I didn't. No sir. Un-uh. No sir. Un-uh. Not that. No. Why would I kill her?"
As the interview went on, Mason fought the allegation, trying to convince the detective of his innocence.
"There's only two people in that room," Martin said. "You and her. OK? She's dead. You're still alive. You have to live with it and the fact that you killed her."
"Why is that the only answer?" Mason said.
"Because the evidence shows that," the detective told him.
According to Martin, the evidence includes the time frame of the woman's death, a witness who described a man matching Mason's description, and the recollections of the kidnapped woman. Hearing the evidence and the scenario, Mason, after sitting in the interview for hours, said he must be guilty.
"I must have done it," he said. "Because what else is there? Two people in the room. One person leaves. One person does not. You don't have to be a rocket scientist. It doesn't matter about juries or anybody else. Two and two equals four. There's no other conclusion. There is none."
Urged not to confess unless it's true, Mason changed his story, saying he remembered. He cryptically recounted how it happened.
"Yeah I remember," he said. "We had a big fight. And I don't remember what was said ... she said something and it just set me off ... And I don't know what it was that was said, but it really set me off. It really pissed me off to no end and I overreacted. And that's what happened."
According to the detective, and county prosecutor Bill Dixon, the man was lying during most of the interview, and confessed when he saw there was no way out.
Mason's attorney, Christine Van Dross, said her client was worn down, however. She said he was pushed and prompted to make a confession. She questioned the detective's investigation and his interview.
The prosecution concluded arguments against Mason Wednesday afternoon, and Van Dross is expected to present a defense on Thursday morning.