Glynn County Police Investigator Guy Butler’s answers about the police department’s investigation into the shooting death of Antonio Randolph told a story of bad blood between the deceased and Everett and Ethan Bennett.
The teenage Bennett brothers were charged last month with the July 22 shooting death of Randolph, 35. Travis Kates, 19, was charged in the same crime on Aug. 1.
Prosecutors and attorneys for the defendants questioned Butler in Glynn County Magistrate Court Thursday about the Glynn County Police Department’s investigation into Randolph’s alleged murder.
Police responded to reports of shots fired in the area around Randolph’s home at 3605 Emmanuel Avenue on the night of July 22, Butler said. Officers knocked on the front door but left when no one responded.
The next morning, the police received reports of a dead body in the front yard, he said.
Attorneys for the defense asked how the officers could have missed the body.
Butler said he wasn’t there, so he couldn’t say exactly. The grass wasn’t tall enough to hide a corpse, he said, but two chairs and a table were sitting between the front door to Randolph’s residence and his body.
The investigation is still ongoing, Butler said, but witness accounts placed the Bennetts and Kates near the scene of the shooting both before and after the shots were fired that night.
Other witnesses claimed to see a similar car to the one the Bennetts and Kates were alleged to have been driving — a gold sedan — park near Randolph’s home the night of July 22, Butler said. Those witnesses say the Bennetts and Kates got out and walked away from the car before they heard gunshots and saw them get back in the car afterward.
Everett’s girlfriend allowed them to borrow a car similar to the one witnesses saw at the time of the shooting, a gold Toyota Camry, Butler said, and said she witnessed the Bennetts and Kates leaving with the car.
Later that night, Butler said, police stopped the car because of an issue with its headlights. Everett’s girlfriend, who was driving, said the lights were weak but that they worked.
The officer allegedly saw Everett in the back seat and noted that he appeared to be shaking. According to Butler, the driver said that Everett was sitting in the back because the front seat was full of stuff.
The Bennetts’ mother, Jennifer Ahnberg, alleged in an interview to have seen the three while she was walking in the area with two other people, Butler said.
During an interview with police, Butler said Ahnberg alleged to have seen her sons and Kates driving around in a gold sedan with the headlights off in the vicinity of Randolph’s residence. She told them to be careful, and watched them drive off in the direction of Randolph’s home, he said.
Shortly after, Butler said Ahnberg said she heard gunshots from that direction. She claimed to have said something along the lines of “I hope Antonio’s OK,” Butler said.
One of the people with her, however, said in a police interview that Ahnberg said something along the lines of “They shot Antonio” or “They killed Antonio,” Butler said, while the second person with Ahnberg said she said something like “He’s dead.”
Butler said Ahnberg had been romantically involved with Randolph, and that she said her sons had been upset at Randolph because he had been “violent” with her and because of incidents of drug abuse. Butler also related a story he had been told about Randolph leaving Ahnberg in Savannah “with a needle in her arm.”
Butler said people who knew and talked to the brothers told investigators about the tension between Randolph and the Bennetts.
One such informant told an investigator that Ahnberg had asked her sons before the shooting on July 22 not to hurt Randolph “too bad” or “too much,” Butler said.
The same person allegedly said one of the brothers responded to the request with profanity and saying “he left you to die,” he said.
Attorneys for the defendants called such statements “hearsay upon hearsay.”
Most of the physical evidence the police had gathered so far came down to witness statements, 9 mm bullet casings and a video recording with very little discernible detail.
Police found seven bullet casings of two different brands. One of the casings was a Turkish brand that is no longer in production, Butler said. A 9 mm casing of the same brand was found in front of Kates’ residence after an incident of shots fired in that area, he said.
Investigators were in the process of trying to link the casings to a particular model of handgun as of the hearing, Butler said.
Items had been taken from the gold Toyota and were still being processed, he said.
Investigators were allowed to look around Kates’ mother’s house, his residence at the time, Butler said. They saw a white bag that allegedly belonged to Kates. When they got a warrant to search the home, the bag was no longer there, he said.
No witnesses said they saw Kates with a gun, but Butler said many who know Kates said he was known to carry a gun regularly.
The footage showed a car that Butler believed to be the car the defendants allegedly used in the vicinity of the shooting, driving down Emmanuel Avenue and parking off-camera. A person in light-colored clothing — Butler said he believed it to be Randolph — standing in the street. He was approached by a figure wearing darker clothing, which Butler alleged was one of the defendants.
The person in light-colored clothing drew back as if alarmed, Butler said, and ran away towards where Randolph’s home would be. The footage showed a flash near the second figure, he said, before the second figure followed the first off-camera.
Butler said investigators believe the footage to show one of the defendants firing at shot at Randolph before following him the front yard of his home, where he was found dead.
Due to how far away the subjects were, Butler admitted that he really couldn’t tell who the people in the video were or if they were male or female.
During the questioning, Butler confirmed that the police department did not have evidence linking Kates directly to the murder. The police had statements from people who claimed Kates often carried a gun, and statements from witnesses alleging they had seen Kates leave the car with the Bennetts before the gunshots and get back in after the shots.
“Based on the totality of it, we believe he aided and abetted, which is why we charged him with murder. If you ask if we have direct witness statements that he was aiding and abetting? No,” Butler said.