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Franquez case bound over to Superior Court

By Mehgaan Jones

mjones@news-daily.com

The suspect in a hit-and run-crash, that severely injured a child last month, appeared in Clayton County Magistrate Court, Thursday, for a preliminary hearing.

Magistrate Judge Beatrice Scott bound the case of Avelardo Franquez, 34, over to Clayton County Superior Court. Charges against Franquez include failure to stop and render aid, and failure to make an accident report.

Franquez is accused of rear-ending a car at the intersection of Jonesboro Road and Southlake Plaza Drive, in Morrow, on Aug. 29, and leaving the scene, according to police.

Following the crash, Damian Dennis, 7, was transported to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, and later upgraded from critical, to stable condition, according to Capt. James Callaway, of the Morrow Police Department.

During Thursday's preliminary hearing, Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Boulware represented the prosecution. Franquez was represented in court, on Thursday, by attorney Michael Friedman. Friedman argued "that there were no eye witnesses at the scene who could positively identify Franquez as the driver.

"The witnesses described the suspect as a white or Hispanic man with dark hair and a goatee," said Friedman.

He added that "this could have been me or you," as he pointed to witness, Callaway.

Capt, Callaway testified on behalf of the prosecution during the hearing. On the stand, he said that Franquez's ex-wife, Melissa Vinings, saw the suspect the day after the crash, with damage to his car. Callaway said that Vinings saw a newscast about the crash, and questioned Franquez. "The ex-wife was concerned about the boy," Callaway said.

Franquez's attorney, Friedman, argued that Vinings was not a witness at the actual crash site, and that her statements are hearsay.

Continuing on the stand, Callaway explained how officials received statements from family members of Franquez, who confirmed that the vehicle found at the suspect's temporary residence -- the vehicle allegedly involved in the crash -- was indeed Franquez's car.

Callaway said, in an attempt to link Franquez to the vehicle, Morrow police have taken DNA and trace samples from the SUV, and are awaiting the results, from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Online court records, late Thursday, did not indicate the bond status, or next court date for Franquez.