By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Latoris Grovner killed out of greed and laziness and has shown no remorse for the death of his girlfriend's mother, said prosecutors during Thursday's closing in his murder trial.
Grovner stands accused of beating Alena Marble in June 2011, putting her alive in the trunk of her Honda and leaving her to die in the summer heat. Grovner was expecting a child with Marble's daughter, Kajul Harvey, who is also charged with murder.
Jurors are returning to Superior Court Friday morning to begin deliberations in the case.
Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers delivered a powerful closing statement Thursday afternoon, dispelling defense attorney David White's assertion Grovner acted out of "irresistible passion." White urged jurors to find Grovner guilty of voluntary manslaughter, not murder.
Powers said the notion was unreal. Grovner didn't take the stand but Powers used his words from his police interview against him in making her argument for murder.
"She was still breathing," said Powers. "He was wondering, 'Where am I gonna put her? Where am I gonna take her?' She was still breathing, he could hear her breathing. Irresistible passion? Really? Not from the evidence."
The left-handed Grovner told police he first hit Marble with his left fist, followed by a Smirnoff Ice bottle and a metal saucepan, both of which were found in the backyard trash. The saucepan was heavily dented on two sides.
White portrayed Grovner as someone who loved kids and who was looking forward to having his first child with Harvey, who already had a daughter, then 4, and son, 2. In fact, White said Grovner was still devastated by an abortion Harvey had of his first child two years before Marble's death.
Not so, said Powers. Police said after the beating, Grovner and Harvey walked to a Bank of America to access Marble's money through the ATM, leaving her kids practically alone in the blood-soaked apartment.
"He left the kids with her mentally-challenged, 22-year-old sister in diapers who can't speak, in a home filled with blood and teeth," said Powers. "That's someone who loves kids? Who's eager to become a father? This is someone who is so greedy and lazy that he leaves the kids in that apartment."
In a last-minute examination of the timeline of events, Assistant District Attorney Deah Warren discovered that Grovner went to the bank immediately after beating Marble but before disposing of her body.
"He left her in the apartment and goes to the ATM," said Powers. "Each time he tries to access the ATM, it is rejected so he has to go back and search for the PIN number. That's why there's an hour's delay until the third time he tries to access it."
Grovner and Harvey ransacked the apartment looking for the PIN, she said.
"They came back and searched while she lay on the sofa, still breathing," said Powers. "So he wraps her in three blankets and drags her to the car and puts her in the trunk. At 10:10 a.m., he tries the ATM again — as Alena Marble is taking her last breaths in the dark and in the heat. He has no remorse, zero remorse."
Other details about the day Marble died were revealed in snippets of Grovner's interview with Clayton County police Detective Joanne Southerland. Grovner told her he kissed Harvey on the cheek just before the beating began and asked her if she was ready. Harvey reportedly said, "Sure."
When the couple came back from the bank, Harvey reportedly commented on the amount of blood in the apartment.
"'Hell yeah,'" Grovner told police he said. "I was like, 'Hell yeah.'"
The morning after the beating, before Marble's body had been discovered, Grovner told police he and Harvey had sex and fed her children cereal.
"They had sex in the bed that had Alena Marble's blood all over it," said Powers. "He fed her daughter cereal in the same place her Nana had been murdered. This man sitting 15 feet from you has zero remorse. He's having sex while Alena Marble is in the trunk where strangers are appalled enough at the sight of blood to call it in."
After loading Marble's body in her trunk, police said Grovner drove it across the street to another apartment complex and left it. It was discovered the next day by residents concerned about a trickle of blood streaming from the trunk.