JONESBORO — State law enforcement officers investigated and discounted an alleged death threat against a Clayton County commissioner last year, Clayton News Daily recently learned.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigations report detailing an alleged murder for hire plot against Commissioner Sonna Singleton was anonymously mailed to a News Daily reporter this week. The GBI opened an investigation in August after a confidential FBI source claimed he’d been approached about finding someone to kill Singleton, who is also a parent liaison at Mundy’s Mill High School.
The informant told agents from both law enforcement agencies that a disgruntled business owner allegedly wanted Singleton killed because he felt she was “holding up permits for him to open a new club in Clayton County,” according to the report.
Ultimately, four polygraph tests reveled the informant “showed deception” although he continued to claim he was telling the truth, according to the report.
“It was the scariest period of my life just having a threat but it put a new face on the possibilities of the decisions that I make as an elected official,” said Singleton. “I believe we all do what we do for the good of the community but we never expect things to go to such extremes.”
It’s a mystery as to why someone decided to send the report to the newspaper seven months after the investigation and at a time when Singleton is preparing for re-election. Singleton said she hoped the issue was “something that I would not have to revisit” and she was surprised when Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter told her that a reporter has questioned him about it.
“I kind of held my breath when he told me because I thought that something new had come up,” she said. “I constantly watch this zoning area in question and so do the neighbors in the area. Still, once you go through this type of situation, it leaves a lasting imprint. Even though I refuse to live in fear but this is definitely a situation I hope never to go through again.”
Although investigators determined the source may not have told the truth about the threat, commission Chairman Jeff Turner said it was serious enough that he asked county police to provide Singleton with protection. He said he made that decision after she told him the GBI was investigating the threat.
Turner said the police protection lasted for “a couple of days or so.”
“It turned out to be nothing, but it’s better to be safe and err on the side of caution,” Turner said. “She told me it happened and I said, ‘OK, we’re going to take it seriously.’ We take every threat seriously. It doesn’t matter. We were going to let the GBI do what they’ve got to do and in the meanwhile, we were going to make sure she was protected.”
Porter said the GBI initiated the phone call to Singleton in reference to the allegations. Porter was on unpaid leave for seven weeks from early July to early September so the department’s response was handled by Deputy Chief Chris Butler.
Singleton said GBI investigators came to visit her at Mundy’s Mill after reaching out to her through her constituent’s aide. It was during the investigators’ visit to the school that she was made aware of the alleged threat.
“My constituent aide called me at work with a message that a GBI agent called the office for me and he needed to speak to me ASAP,” Singleton said. “I returned the call nervous and scared and the agent said he needed to come to wherever I was at the time to speak to me. He came to my place of employment.
“Needless to say, when he left I was no good for the remainder of the day,” she added.
Capt. Angelo Daniel confirmed that officers were asked to provide security for Singleton.
“The Clayton County Police Department provided protection to the commissioner,” he said. “We assisted in reference to surveillance to protect her until they determined whether the threat was viable or unfounded.”
Porter said he wouldn’t characterize the threats as “unusual.”
“I’ve received threats before, some other appointed or elected officials have experienced the same thing,” he said. “It’s our position to do what we need to do from a law enforcement standpoint.”
Porter denied that “close quarters” protection was provided to Singleton.
“We only provided surveillance of her whereabouts to ensure she was safe,” said Porter. “There was no close quarters protection.”
Porter said the department was not made privy to the specifics of the alleged threats, only that it was reportedly made by someone known to Singleton.
“It was just brought to our attention that there was a threat to the life of an elected official,” he said.
Singleton said she gained a new level of respect for police officers, and admitted she felt “a little guilty” that they were potentially putting their lives in harm’s way to protect her.
“My respect for the Clayton County Police Department Officers grew even stronger,” Singleton said. “Their professionalism, commitment, skill, knowledge of what they do and the protection they provide is incredible. I could not have imagined.
“Now when I hear people say police officers put their lives on the line, I have a much greater understanding through personal experience of how they put their lives on the line each day,” she added.