After deliberating for just over an hour Wednesday, a jury found 49-year-old Hannibal Wayne McMullen guilty of the 2012 murder of 26-year-old Ketitra Jones.
Jones was killed Feb. 10, 2012 with a single gunshot to the face. The jury not only found McMullen guilty of causing her death, but also of stalking her prior to the homicide.
After what was referred to by friends of the victim, as well as by McMullen, as an "on-again, off-again" relationship that began roughly eight years before her death, Jones had initiated yet another breakup with McMullen. But this time, she seemed to mean it.
She took out a temporary protection order (TPO) against him, visited the Covington Police Department, changed her phone number and blocked him on Facebook. McMullen said under oath that even with the TPO in place, he didn’t think the split was that serious.
"She would always leave, but she would always come back," McMullen said on the stand Wednesday.
Despite testimony Tuesday from Jones’ friends, co-workers, and a representative from victim services who helped Jones with her TPO, McMullen denied ever saying that if he could not have her no one would, denied stalking her at her place of employment and denied harassing her. According to McMullen, what happened the day Jones died was an accident. He said he had been driving down Washington Street heading toward the Covington square. He was smoking and had his driver’s side window open. He said his semi-automatic gun was on the seat next to him and he decided to remove the clip, which is when the gun went off. The bullet went through his open window and shattered the passenger window in Jones’ vehicle, striking her in the face.
According to a medical examiner from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, she would not have lived more than a few minutes after the gunshot wound, which severed her spinal cord.
McMullen said when he saw the window shatter, he kept driving because he was scared, but he denied ever putting his finger on the trigger, and said he did not realize Jones had been hit until he saw it on the news later that day.
During closing arguments, McMullen’s defense attorney, Terri Smith, argued that while McMullen did kill Jones, he did not mean to do so. Prosecutor Melanie Bell’s argument to the jurors was that McMullen wanted what he wanted, and when Jones tried to really end the relationship, he wasn’t going to let that happen.
"She was a real person. She wasn’t that girl, she wasn’t that b----. … She was a real person, and all she tried to do was say this relationship is not working out, it’s bad for both of us. … And he just wasn’t going to let that happen. … He turned that beautiful smile to this," she said, holding up a picture of Jones dead in her vehicle.
After McMullen was found guilty on malice murder, aggravated stalking and two firearms possession charges, Jones’ mother, Julia Key, addressed the court prior to McMullen’s sentencing.
"She was my only child," she said, beginning to cry. "All Wayne thought about was himself that day — If I can’t have you, no one will. … Because she wanted to move on with her life. … I have to look at pictures. I can’t see my baby, I can’t feel my baby. I have to go to a graveyard to visit my baby. … He took everything away from me. Everything."
McMullen also addressed the court, calling Jones’ death a "tragic accident," and saying that he was "deeply, deeply sorry."
Prior to sentencing, Judge John Ott addressed McMullen, offering him a definition of a sociopath, and admonishing him for not taking responsibility for his action.
"This is a tragedy all done at your own hands. It’s not an accident, and it mocks everyone’s intelligence for you to keep saying that," Ott said. "Everybody in the whole world was a liar and a cheat and out to get you except for you. … You can lie to yourself all day for the rest of your life. But you can do that from inside a prison cell, because that’s where the rest of it will be."
"We are pleased with the jury’s verdict today," said Bell. "Nothing can bring Ketitra back to her family and friends, but we hope the fact that justice was served in the courtroom will bring some peace and closure."