By Daniel Silliman
Timothy Alan Boothe pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he bound, gagged and murdered a 68-year-old woman by burning her house down.
Boothe, 42, had to be transported to the Clayton County Courthouse from a "private detention healthcare facility" in Columbia, S.C., to enter his plea of not guilty in Clayton County Superior Court. He has been at the South Carolina facility since he was seriously injured in the county jail. The injury occurred shortly after his bond was set at $750,000.
"Someone either threw him off, or he jumped off, some high ledge in the jail," said John Turner, Clayton County's executive assistant district attorney.
Details of the extent of his injuries were not immediately available. Boothe's attorney declined to comment, but the murdered woman's family has been told Boothe's back was broken in three places, and he had also broken his neck, arms and legs.
Almost a year after the murder, which caused some in Jonesboro to fear that a serial killer might be on the loose in the community, the case is moving toward a trial.
After two delays, the arraignment was held Wednesday and Boothe entered his plea, denying that he killed Geneva Strickland, a woman he knew through a former girlfriend, and who had helped him financially in the past.
Strickland was found in her burned-down home, late on Oct. 31, 2007, by firefighters. She was in her bed in a back room of her 614 Fayetteville Road. Her hands were tied to the bedposts and her mouth gagged with Ace Bandages, court records show.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy report concluded that Strickland died of asphyxiation, suffocation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigators believe the motivation was robbery, because Strickland was known as an overly friendly person who lived alone, and supposedly kept a lot of cash in her Fayetteville Road residence.
Originally, police were looking for two men seen in the area that night, but then the GBI discovered DNA in a glove, found wrapped in the Ace Bandage. The DNA matched Boothe's, who has been to prison eight times since 1985 for felonies, including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, theft and forgery.
The single piece of evidence is considered damning by prosecutors and investigators, and has been hailed by state agencies as an example of the success of a DNA database.
The defense attorney argues, though, that the DNA could have gotten in the glove when Boothe did work for Strickland at her home, as he had done in the past. Unsupported by any other evidence, he said the DNA is actually meaningless.
The GBI is continuing its investigation, though no additional evidence has been made public. Court records show the case could go to a jury as early as this November.