MOULTRIE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man was found guilty Thursday of murdering five friends in 2016 and trying to cover it up by burning down a house.
After a four-day trial in Moultrie without a jury, Superior Court Judge James Hardy pronounced Jeffrey Peacock guilty on 14 counts, including five counts of murder.
News outlets report Peacock will serve five consecutive life sentences without parole for the murders. He also was convicted of five counts of possessing a gun during the commission of a felony, one count of arson and three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals for dogs that died in the fire.
Peacock’s attorney claimed that his client only killed one person. Allan Sincox said Peacock shot Jordan Croft after Croft killed the four others.
Besides Croft, the victims included Jonathan Edwards, Alicia Norman, Jones Pidcock and Reid Williams. All were found with gunshot wounds after the May 2016 fire.
Peacock had once lived at the house with the group, but witnesses testified at trial that he had been kicked out because of drug and alcohol abuse. However, witnesses said Peacock had reconnected with his friends before their deaths, and had been hanging out with them in the hours before the fire.
He told authorities that morning that he had left before the fire to buy cigarettes and breakfast. However, in a seven-hour recorded interview with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, he changed his story at least twice, eventually saying he had shot Croft in self-defense.
Sincox argued the state had little evidence besides the interview to convict Peacock, describing investigators as being in “maybe land” as they sought alternate scenarios to what Peacock said in his interview. The defense presented no witnesses, and Sincox argued the judge had a duty to acquit Peacock.
Prosecutors told Hardy that “no reasonable person can believe” Peacock’s story. The district attorney has described Peacock’s case as the most cold-blooded and calculated killing he had ever seen.
In the sentencing phase, the mothers of the five victims stood in front of the judge. Suzanna Williams and Lucretia Roddenberry, the mothers of Reid Williams and Jonathan Edwards, respectively, asked Hardy for the harshest possible sentence for Peacock. They said they faced their own life sentences with the loss of their children.