Court upholds murder convictions

ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld murder convictions in two Southwest Georgia cases, the court announced Tuesday.

In a case out of Ben Hill County, the court upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of Dewayne Lee Hendricks.

The high court also upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of Joe Elvin Cloud in Miller County. In that case, the court tossed a separate conviction against Cloud for aggravated assault, saying the charge was for the same incident and should have been merged with the malice murder conviction for sentencing purposes.

Hendricks was appealing his convictions for malice murder, aggravated assault, possession of a deadly weapon at a public gathering, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of aggravated assault, all in connection with the shooting death of Maurice Collier, and the non-fatal shootings of Deanthony Fleming and Akimbee Burns, the court said. The shootings occurred Jan. 17, 2004, at the Boom Boom Room dance club.

Collier had fired a shot in the air during an altercation over a car, and Hendricks, employed as a bouncer, was involved in the fighting, the court said. Collier put his gun away and walked away, but Hendricks followed after him, shooting into the crowd. Collier died at a hospital after being hit by three bullets, and Fleming and Burns were also injured, the court found.

Cloud was appealing his convictions for the malice murder of Rocky Heard, the aggravated assaults of Ray Dean Heard and Rocky Heard, possession of a firearm during the commission of the crime of aggravated assault, affray and simple battery for shootings that occurred Aug. 31, 2005.

The shooting, according to court records, was sparked by a near collision on Aug. 29 involving Cloud and Ray Dean Heard’s wife and daughter. Cloud’s business associate, Mike Maugeri, was a passenger in his truck when the vehicle driven by Ray Dean Heard’s wife nearly collided with it. Daughter Courtney heard made an obscene gesture toward Cloud, which he returned, the court papers show.

Both vehicles pulled into a parking lot and angry words were exchanged, resulting in Cloud slapping Courtney Heard. Her mother went into a restaurant to notify law enforcement and Cloud drove away, leaving Maugeri, court records say.

Ray Dean Heard threatened to “put some knots” on Cloud’s head when he learned of the incident and Cloud, the next day, turned himself in to law enforcement, which charged him with the slapping. In his home county, Cloud secured a “no trespass” notice against ray Dean heard, the court record states.

On Aug. 31, the Heards and an employee, John Easom, were in a convenience store when Cloud and Maugeri pulled up to the gas pumps, the record shows. The Heards came out, recognized Cloud and, after heated words were exchanged, the Heards scuffled with Cloud, hitting him with their hands and feet. Easom, the records state, told the Heards to stop, and as they began walking back to their truck Cloud produced a shotgun and shot Rocky Heard in the back. He died a few minutes later. Cloud fired a second shot at Ray Dean Heard, but only hit his truck. He was persuaded to put down his gun and was arrested. Cloud argued at his trial that he was justified in defending himself.

The court upheld the charges except for an aggravated assault charge connected with the malice murder of Rocky Heard, which the justices said should have been merged.