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Attorney to seek death for accused: Auburn man indicted for 4 murders, arson

POSTED: December 23, 2007 5:03 a.m.
Jackson County’s district attorney will seek the death penalty against an Auburn man charged in a 2006 murder-arson that claimed the lives of four people, including the suspect’s two young children.

Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rick Bridgeman filed official notice of intent to seek the death penalty against 34-year-old Henry Lee Stringer on Tuesday in Jackson County Superior Court.

Stringer’s attorney, public defender Barry King, said he had not spoken with his client Tuesday, but confirmed the announcement was not unexpected.

"He and I have had conversations in the past about the probability of this happening," King said.

Stringer was indicted Dec. 3 on charges of murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, cruelty to children and arson. It was the second indictment returned by a grand jury since Stringer’s arrest.

Stringer is accused of killing Evelyn Strickland, 68, her daughter, Marvelette J’Laine Strickland, 29, and Marvelette’s two children, 4-year-old J’Majuan Stringer, and 2-year-old J’Lasia Stringer.

Authorities said the women were stabbed while the children died of smoke inhalation after a fire was set at the yellow house on Pendergrass Road in Hoschton on May 30, 2006. The case went a year without an arrest before Stringer was charged June 1.

Stringer, the father of the two children, had been a suspect throughout. He was critically injured days after the deaths when he was struck by a train in Gwinnett County and spent two months hospitalized on life support at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Bridgeman, through a news release, said he would make no public comment about the case outside of court.

Hoschton Police Chief David Hill said in a statement that the police department "fully supports the decision of Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard K. Bridgeman to seek the death penalty in this case and appreciates the partnership his office has provided."

Hill declined to make any further comment.

Family members of the slain women and children were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

It is Bridgeman’s first death penalty case since taking office in August, after he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of longtime district attorney Tim Madison.

Stringer had originally been scheduled to be arraigned before Jackson County Superior Court Judge Robert Adamson on Dec. 19, but that court date has been postponed, King said.

Stringer’s case will be transferred to the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender, which represents most indigent clients facing the death penalty.

The last person to face the death penalty in Jackson County was convicted cop-killer Richard Alexander Whitaker.

Whitaker pleaded guilty in 2006 to the 2004 fatal shooting of Pendergrass Police Officer Chris Ruse, in a negotiated plea by which he avoided the death penalty. Whitaker, 28 at the time of the plea, was sentenced by Adamson to life in prison without the possibility of parole.



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