Newton County District Attorney Ken Wynne formally announced that the state intends to seek the death penalty against 23-year-old Pablo Fernando Maldonado, the accused ringleader in the 2009 murder of Timothy Clements.Maldonado was present in the courtroom of Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson Jr., along with his two appointed attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defender’s Office, Teri Thompson and Todd D. Wooten. Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon was also present and will take over the case for Wynne after July 29 when he is sworn in as the county’s fifth judge and Zon is named interim district attorney.
The defense declined to hold an arraignment Thursday morning, telling the judge it was their preference to do so at a later date. Maldonado was questioned by the judge as to any issues he may have had with his council, but he told the judge that there were none "so far," nor was there anything he wished to bring to the court’s attention at that time.
Maldonado is charged with murder, aggravated assault, concealing the death of another, armed robbery, aggravated battery, false imprisonment, forgery in the first degree and theft by taking in the death of 53-year-old Clements.
According to information obtained during the investigation, Maldonado, who worked for Clements in his landscaping business — along with 19-year-old Brittney Beasley and 18-year-old Christian Caldwell — killed Clements and robbed him then stole his truck and, after dumping his wrapped body in Snapping Shoals Creek, fled to Alabama.
Also charged in the case is 17-year-old Katria McClain, who was reportedly present the night before the murder when the group planned it out and who fled with them to Alabama, under threat from Maldonado, according to statements made to investigators. She was not present at the time of the murder.
McClain recently pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder and agreed to testify truthfully against Maldonado, Beasley and Caldwell. Her sentencing has been delayed for the time being.
In Georgia, there are several aggravating factors that determine eligibility for the state to seek death, including the murder being "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or depraved (or involved torture)," or being committed for pecuniary gain.