A Georgia man who committed a mass murder during a wild spree of violence during the spring of 2016 was unsuccessful in a recent effort to overturn his convictions before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Jeffrey Alan Peacock, 31, was found guilty by a Colquitt County judge after a 4-day-long bench trial in June 2019 on all 14 counts with which he was charged, including five counts of malice murder, five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, one count of arson, and three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. The firearm charges, however, were technically rolled into one offense.
Reciting the facts at trial, the Georgia Supreme Court notes Peacock called 911 on the day of the crime and “reported that his friends’ house was ‘fully engulfed’ in flames and his friends were inside” after he had returned from a breakfast run some 30 minutes prior.
The fire destroyed most of the house and firefighters then recovered the bodies of Jonathan Edwards, Jr., Alecia Norman, Reid Williams, Jones Pidcock, and Jordan Croft. Each person, the court explained, had been killed by at least one gunshot to the head.
The opinion went on to detail some of the more gruesome facts:
Norman was shot twice, Croft was shot at least once (his head was too damaged by the fire to determine if he had been shot again), and the other three victims were shot once. The medical examiner testified that each victim would have died within minutes of being shot, and they were all dead before the fire began. Bullets found in the bodies of Edwards, Norman, and Pidcock were fired from Edwards’s gun, which was found in his bedroom after the fire. … The bodies of two dogs, which had died from smoke inhalation and severe burns, were also found in the house. These dogs belonged to Edwards and Norman and usually stayed inside. Edwards and Norman also had a skittish dog that tended to stay outside. The body of that dog was found under Edwards’s truck behind the house. The dog had some burns around its mouth and soot in its airway, but the dog had been killed by its skull being crushed, not by the fire.
While law enforcement were assessing the damage and despair, Peacock was interviewed by a county sheriff’s investigator who asked him about his connection to the victims. The defendant said he used to live at the house and visited often, that he was there the night before, smoking and drinking with the victims and that he spent the night. The morning of the fire, he said, he woke up at 7:30 a.m. and went to get everyone breakfast at Hardee’s and some cigarettes at a convenience store while they stayed behind and watched Netflix.
Quickly, though, the story didn’t quite add up.
Peacock, who had driven his truck up near the house, consented to a search of his vehicle. There, investigator Mike Murfin found a bag of Hardee’s biscuits and a new pack of cigarettes. But that was about all the defendant could count on to back his first version up.
While surveillance video from the Hardee’s also corroborated Peacock’s story, footage from the convenience store showed that he never visited the store that morning. Netflix records, the court noted, showed no activity on the account that Edwards used at the house he rented. Then there was the defendant’s change of clothes.
In the fast food surveillance video, Peacock was wearing “a green shirt with white writing” but when he spoke with Murfin, he was in “a blue-gray sleeveless shirt,” the court noted. Officers then conducted a second search of the defendant’s vehicle and found the green-and-white shirt as well as a pair of shorts “stuffed behind a speaker at the back of the truck.” And those clothes were covered in blood.
Investigators determined that some of the DNA from the blood on the shirt belonged to Croft while the blood on the shorts was from Norman, Pidcock, and a “non-human source.” An additional blood stain on the shirt contained at least three separate DNA profiles but was “too complex” for authorities to identify, the court explained.
Three days after the rampage and inferno, Peacock was questioned again, this time by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. For nearly four hours, he stuck to the original narrative – adding a detail that he left to take Mika Snipes, another friend, home the night before – a detail she corroborated while noting that the night was “really calm.”
Then he was arrested. That’s when his story changed.
The Peach State’s highest court summarized the new narrative:
When he returned from dropping off Snipes, the front door of the house was locked, and when he went around to the back of the house, he found Croft in the kitchen. He assumed everyone else was asleep. He and Croft stayed in the kitchen, drinking and then doing some cocaine that Croft had. Peacock began to feel strange from the cocaine and went into the hallway, where he found Pidcock’s body. He then found the bodies of Williams, Edwards, and Norman lying face down in their bedrooms. Peacock confronted Croft, who offered no explanation for the shootings, and they began to fight. When Croft pulled a gun from his pants, Peacock grabbed it and shot Croft twice in the head. After drinking and smoking marijuana for a couple hours, Peacock decided to set the house on fire “to cover it up.”
As for the dead dogs, the defendant didn’t have much to tell investigators except that he knew the three dogs lived at the house.
During a hearing in late May, Peacock’s attorneys argued that the evidence at trial was insufficient to convict him on most of the charges, and that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the search of his truck. Additionally, his new appellate attorney argued that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to try and suppress his statements to the GBI agent.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled against Peacock on all of his arguments and theories, finding the evidence sufficient to convict him and reject his late-coming “Croft did it”-and-self-defense claim because he changed his story after being arrested. The court also rejected a curtilage argument because, even though the defendant’s truck was later moved by first responders, it was in the curtilage of the home before and after it was moved and was, therefore, validly searched.
As for the claim that his original attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel, the court was categorical that the first lawyer simply chose “not to raise a meritless hope-of-benefit argument.”
Peacock is currently serving five life sentences for the combined malice murders plus 40 years for the remaining offenses.
The full opinion is available below:
[Image via Georgia Department of Corrections]
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