By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
6-year-old allegedly killed over watermelon
DA remains undecided on death penalty
Placeholder Image
How to help
A charitable fund for the family of slain 6-year-old Michael Levigne has been set up through First United Methodist Church. Tax-deductible donations may be made to:
The Michael Levigne Fund
C/O Community Bank and Trust of Commerce
P.O. Box 59
Commerce, GA 30529

Jackson County’s district attorney is waiting for all the facts in the death of 6-year-old Commerce boy before deciding on whether to seek the death penalty against the child’s grandfather.

Meanwhile, local community members have set up a charitable fund for the family of Michael Levigne, who on June 7 was allegedly shot to death by his grandfather over a watermelon.

Robert L. Clark, 55, remained in Atlanta Medical Center on Wednesday in critical but stable condition, recovering from gunshot wounds after he was shot by police during a standoff at his home. Police believe Clark became enraged at the boy after the child either sliced into or dropped a watermelon.

Clark is accused of shooting his wife, 58-year-old Linda Clark, and Levigne with a 9 mm handgun. Linda Clark is also recovering from gunshot wounds and remained in critical but stable condition Wednesday.

District Attorney Brad Smith said this week that he has made no decision on whether to seek the death penalty in the case.

"We haven’t completed the investigation, and I will need all the facts before me before I make a determination," Smith said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jim Fullington said authorities have not had a chance to interview Robert Clark or Linda Clark because of their conditions.

"If and when their conditions improve, we plan on talking to them," Fullington said.

Fullington said officials "still have a ways to go" in the investigation.

Levigne had been living with his younger brother in the house after being placed in the care of his grandparents by the state Division of Family and Children Services. The boys’ parents had struggled with substance abuse issues, according to authorities.

Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert said Wednesday that while there had been a few 911 calls made from the home in the past, there was no indication that the boys were in danger.

The calls, mostly minor, ranged from a domestic violence incident between the boy’s father and Linda Clark to a dispute with a neighbor over a barking dog. Robert Clark had never before been accused of a crime.

"There was no activity at the residence that would have indicated to police these children were at risk," Gaissert said.

Gaissert said so far, authorities have not determined any additional motive in the shootings.

"Clearly, it’s hard to believe that a watermelon would trigger such deadly violence," Gaissert said.

The police chief partnered with the First United Methodist Church of Commerce to set up a charitable fund for the family, who have no insurance to cover funeral and medical expenses.

"We thought it was the right thing to do, to see if we could network some resources to try and help this family," Gaissert said.

Gaissert said the murder was "traumatic, to have this occur in a family oriented community. It’s certainly had a profound impact on everyone involved in this case."

Smith said once the investigation is completed, a grand jury will be convened to hear the case.

The district attorney already has one death penalty case pending against a man charged with murdering a child in Jackson County.

Henry Lee Stringer is awaiting trial in connection with the murders of four people, including his 2-year-old and 4-year-old children, who died in a May 2006 fire in their Hoschton home after their mother and grandmother were stabbed to death.

Regional events