By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — A pregnant mother of two wanted so badly to live with her boyfriend that she threatened to kill her mother for the money to get her own apartment, said prosecutors Tuesday.
In her opening statement in the murder case against Kajul Harvey, Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Deah Warren told jurors that Harvey had a plan to “just get rid of her mother.” Harvey was pregnant with co-defendant Latoris Grovner's child at the time her mother, Alena Marble, was beaten to death and left in the trunk of her own car in June 2011.
"The defendant knew Latoris Grovner was not welcome in the house," said Warren. "But she defied her mother's wishes. She wanted to live with Latoris Grovner and wanted money. Instead of being an adult and getting a job, she told her mother she'd kill her. She would kill her and have her removed."
Warren said Harvey continued to sneak Grovner into the apartment she shared with her mother, two children and disabled sister were. Warren said Harvey told her mother a few days before her death, "I'm gonna kill you."
Grovner was convicted in January of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter in Marble's beating death. Judge Matthew Simmons sentenced Grovner to 30 years in prison. He is not expected to testify during Harvey's trial.
Warren told jurors that Marble was beaten with a vodka bottle and a saucepan. Several of her teeth had been knocked out and were found in pieces in and around the sofa. Grovner wrapped Marble in several blankets, placed her in the trunk of her Honda Civic, drove it across the street to another apartment complex and left her. Warren said a medical examiner will testify that Marble was still alive but traumatically disfigured when she was put inside the trunk. Neighbors and police discovered the body by following a trail of blood spilling out from the car and down the pavement of the parking lot.
After killing Marble, Grovner reportedly tried to access Marble's bank account. Surveillance cameras caught him and Harvey on tape at two ATM machines and inside a Bank of America, said prosecutors.
Harvey isn't suspected of carrying out the attack on her mother but under Georgia law is charged as the alleged killer because prosecutors said she knew about the plot, supported it and did nothing to stop it. Prosecutors allege she was inside the apartment during the killing, as were her two small children and adult sister, who is disabled to the point she cannot speak and wears diapers.
Harvey is being represented by public defender Lloyd Matthews. In his opening statement, he told jurors that Harvey didn't know her mother was being slaughtered downstairs in the living room while she slept heavily in an upstairs bedroom. He accused the police officers investigating the death as rushing to judgment.
"A middle-age woman goes missing and the police focus on the woman's daughter as a suspect," he said. "They glom on to her as a suspect and never deviate from what they expect."
Matthews said Harvey was a special needs student in high school who got pregnant in the 10th grade and dropped out.
"She was irresponsible, unruly, back-talked her mother but was basically dependent on her mother," he said. "Her mother got her SSI check and parceled it out to her."
Harvey had a second child with another man but only one of the fathers paid child support, said Matthews. He said she got $200 every two weeks in child support and $600 a month in Supplemental Security Income. Matthews said Grovner was angry at Marble because she paid for Harvey to abort her first pregnancy with him.
But testimony from the state's second witness seemed to blow that theory out of the water. Former Forest Park police Officer Melton Johnson testified that he went to the Harvey-Marble home when they lived on Longleaf Drive in March 2010. Marble called police after finding Grovner had been at her home, said Johnson.
"He came over to drop off money for an abortion," Johnson said he was told at the time. "Ms. Harvey took him to her bedroom and closed the door. Her mother freaked out and kicked open the door."
Harvey later gave birth to Grovner's child in the Clayton County Jail, said Matthews.
If convicted of murder, Harvey faces life in prison.