Ward's conviction upheld by the Supreme Court
Murder Conviction Upheld by Georgia Supreme Court In March 2016, Rodricus Ward was convicted by a Greene County jury for the offenses of malice murder and firearm offenses in connection with the shooting death of his on-again-off again girlfriend,
Darla Gibbons, in October of 2014. A worker had discovered her burned-out car with a charred human body in its trunk at a rock quarry adjacent to the Athens airport on October 22, 2014. The victim’s body was identified by dental analysis. She was killed by two gunshots to her head, as two .25-caliber bullets were found in her skull. The car’s trunk was intentionally set on fire after she was killed. The evidence showed that Ward and Gibbons had a rocky relationship and previous instances of domestic violence. Ward had also never repaid a loan that the victim had given him to pay his probation fine. The State presented text messages and cell phone records that showed Gibbons had traveled from her home in Atlanta to Ward’s residence the evening of October 20, 2014. She was never heard from again. At trial, Ward’s nephew testified that he traveled with Ward in Gibbons car after midnight where Ward dropped him off near the rock quarry. Ward met up with him a short time later without the car. Ward told him that he had hurt a girl and needed to get rid of the car. Surveillance video from the Marathon convenience store on Lexington Road later showed Ward and his nephew there for a couple of hours waiting for a ride home. Ward’s sister picked the two of them up and drove them back to Greene County around 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning after she completed her paper route. Ward was interviewed by detectives with the Athens-Clarke County police department, giving them vague and contradictory accounts of his activities of his activities on October 20. He consented to a search of his phone and the detectives found a video recorded around 8:30 p.m. on Monday, October 20, showing him pointing a small-caliber pistol at the camera. The firearms examiner testified that the gun appeared to be a .25-caliber. During a search of his residence, a GBI crime scene analyst located Ms. Gibbons blood DNA, along with a spent .25-caliber shell casing. Ward did not testify at trial. After his conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld Ward’s conviction for malice murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Supreme Court found the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions, that the trial court did not commit error by allowing witnesses to testify about Gibbons prior statements regarding domestic abuse and defense counsel was not ineffective. The prosecution was led by former District Attorney Stephen Bradley and Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin.