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Cops zeroed in on handyman in murder

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
GBI sketch artist Marla Lawson testifies Thursday that an eyewitness gave her information that led to her providing a rendering of a man allegedly seen at Geneva Strickland's house the night it burned.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats GBI sketch artist Marla Lawson testifies Thursday that an eyewitness gave her information that led to her providing a rendering of a man allegedly seen at Geneva Strickland's house the night it burned.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

The investigation into the Halloween 2007 death of a Jonesboro woman quickly zeroed in on one suspect -- her handyman, a state special agent testified as the man's murder trial continued Thursday afternoon.

Timothy Alan Boothe, 44, is charged with the murder of Geneva Strickland, 68, of Fayetteville Road.

Police said Boothe did odd jobs for Strickland, and had fathered a child with a niece of hers. His local criminal history dates back to 1985, and Boothe has served time in state prison.

He maintains his innocence and is being represented by defense attorney Darrell B. Reynolds.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent David Norman was the last witness on the stand Thursday evening, and is expected to be first up today for re-direct examination by Clayton County prosecutor Katie Powers. Norman discussed the evidence collected at Strickland's house the day her bound-and-gagged body was found inside her burned home.

Norman said zip ties used to bind Strickland's wrists and ankles were traced to the type sold in local home improvement stores. He was unable to trace a blue latex glove found tangled in an Ace bandage that was wrapped seven times around Strickland's head and face. A check of local pawn stores failed to uncover any items from Strickland's house, he said.

A fanny pack in which Strickland was known to carry large sums of cash was never found, said Norman. Police said the motive for the woman's death was robbery.

A hearing-impaired bicyclist told GBI agents and local police she saw two men near Stickland's home the night it burned. She told them one was black, the other white. The witness provided information to GBI artist Marla Lawson, who produced a sketch that prosecutors said resembled Boothe as he looked at that time.

However, Norman said he was never able to find a black male friend of Boothe's believed to have been with him.

After Boothe's arrest in 2007, he was held in the Clayton County Jail. While there, officials said he jumped, was pushed, or fell from an upper tier, suffering a spinal injury. He is confined to a wheelchair and was being housed at Columbia Care Center in South Carolina, a facility that cares for incapacitated inmates. His face is drawn and gaunt and bears little resemblance to his image in 2007.

Powers asked Norman to describe Boothe at that time.

"He was robust, had a muscular build and could walk at that time," said Norman.

Under cross-examination, Reynolds tried to hammer home the fact that Norman focused solely on Boothe to the exclusion of other possible suspects: "You didn't continue to follow other leads, did you?" asked Reynolds.

"Leads are something you can't make up, sir," said Norman.

The state expects to call four more witnesses before resting its case, and Reynolds told Superior Court Judge Al Collier that he plans to call five.

Closing arguments could begin this afternoon, with the jury getting the case Monday. If convicted of murder, Boothe faces life in prison, with the possibility of parole.