By Jason A. Smith
A detective told a judge, Friday, that two suspects robbed a woman in a mall parking lot because they needed money to pay a probation officer.
Armed-robbery charges were later bound over to Superior Court against Lenna Degunion Highland, 21, of Griffin, and Jacob Nathaniel Reeves, 27, of Flovilla, Ga.
Reeves is being held without bond in the Henry County Jail, and Highland is being held on $90,000 bond.
The alleged robbery took place at approximately 12:30 p.m., Jan. 26, outside Tanger Outlet Center in Locust Grove, according to Sgt. Todd DeMuth, of the Locust Grove Police Department.
At a hearing before Magistrate Judge Robert Godwin, the sergeant testified that the victim, Kayla Floyd, was walking to her vehicle to get her purse, when she encountered the suspects. "The subjects pulled up next to her, and asked for directions," said DeMuth. "She approached the driver's side of the vehicle. At that time, the male subject stated that they needed some money, showed a gun, and told her, 'We don't want to hurt you, but we will shoot you if we have to.'"
DeMuth described the gun used in last month's robbery as a loaded pistol.
Floyd, continued DeMuth, pulled a $20 bill out of her purse, which Highland took. The suspects then left the area, and the victim called police.
DeMuth said he was traveling down Bill Gardner Parkway with Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton, when they got a call about the robbery. According to DeMuth, dispatch personnel told authorities to be on the lookout for a gray or silver Jeep Cherokee, driven by a woman wearing a yellow bandana.
"We observed a similar vehicle turn off of Tanger Boulevard onto Bill Gardner, heading west towards I-75," DeMuth said.
Police, he added, conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle near Bethlehem Bridge on Interstate 75, removed Highland and Reeves, and found a loose $20 bill in the Jeep. Authorities then separated the pair for questioning at the scene.
"Ms. Highland said they had gone down to visit a friend of theirs, and they were coming back from her friend's house," said DeMuth. "I said, 'What were you doing leaving off of Tanger Boulevard?' At that time, Ms. Highland turned away, shut down and didn't have much else to say. We knew that we had the right people."
DeMuth said Highland later admitted she and Reeves had gone to her ex-husband's house in Forest Park earlier in the day, and had taken a gun from his home. Highland and Reeves, according to the sergeant, were "down on their luck," and needed to get money quickly.
"She stated that she had to see her probation officer later that day," said DeMuth. "She didn't have enough money to pay for probation. They were talking, at first, about pawning the gun to get money for her probation. They also discussed going somewhere and robbing somebody for some money."
DeMuth said when he questioned Reeves, he gave a different version of events from that of his co-defendant. "Mr. Reeves started out by saying Ms. Highland was a chronic liar, and that she tells stories," said DeMuth. "He insisted on knowing what she had told me before he gave me any statements."
DeMuth said Reeves claimed he did not have a gun and did not know anything about a gun being involved in the incident. According to the sergeant, Reeves told police he and Highland asked Floyd for money, and that Highland "snatched" it from the victim before driving away.
However, DeMuth said Reeves later admitted his involvement in the robbery, after talking with investigators. The sergeant said both suspects told police the gun was thrown from the Jeep after the robbery. Police, he continued, recovered the weapon the day of the incident.
The victim in the case positively identified the gun Feb. 17, as well as a photograph of Reeves.
Both suspects are being represented by the Public Defender's Office. Attorney David Serwitz, representing Reeves, briefly questioned DeMuth on the stand. Attorney Christina Kempter, representing Highland, also questioned the sergeant to verify details of his testimony, but neither attorney challenged DeMuth's statements to the court.
Judge Godwin bound over the charges against both suspects, to Superior Court, where bond for Reeves will be decided later.