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Dawsonville man sentenced in aggravated assault case after grand jury declines murder charge

A Dawsonville man was sentenced to time served in an aggravated assault case more than six months after a grand jury declined to charge him with felony murder, according to court documents.

John Marlin King Jr., 31, was sentenced Friday, Aug. 5, was sentenced to seven years with the first 15 months in custody by Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden.

After giving credit for time served, Bearden said King's custodial sentence was deemed served, and King would be allowed to serve the remainder of the sentence on probation.

The case began after the death of John Aaron McMurray, 24, who was found unresponsive Oct. 28, 2020, in his Old Athens Road home.

According to court documents, the medical examiner’s report concluded the case was a “homicide caused by blunt force trauma in someone acutely intoxicated with methamphetamine.”

But the grand jury declined in January to charge King or co-defendant Zachary Russell with felony murder, charging them instead with aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery.

At the time of the grand jury’s decision, Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh told The Times he felt it “was important for the grand jury to consider all the facts and circumstances in a lengthy, detailed presentation” to determine whether to move forward with the murder charge. Russell’s case is still open.

If the case were to go to trial, defense attorney Jake Shapiro said the defense’s theory would have been that McMurray’s death “would have likely been an overdose.”

“We would concede that there was a fight that was induced by drugs, that everybody was on drugs and that resulted in people kind of going a little crazy,” Shapiro said.

Michelle Guerra, McMurray’s mother, sent her victim-impact statement to The Times. In the statement she provided to Bearden, she described her son as an imperfect but “loving, kind, gentle, free spirited, young man.”

“John Aaron and I split the bills on everything to make sure that we were able to take care of his big brother and that he could still take care of his son,” Guerra wrote. “Since his death I have struggled severely trying to take care of his big brother and not even getting to see his son.”

Guerra described the loss of her son as though her “soul has been ripped” from her body. 

There are no words, Guerra said, to “describe the pain that a mother feels when something they spent nine months breathing life into is ripped from their lives so violently and unexpected.”

Guerra said she felt King deserved the maximum possible punishment.

“I promised my son I would see to it that justice be served for his senseless death, and this sentence that has been so carelessly asked for is not justice in my opinion but a mockery of my son's life,” Guerra wrote.