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Judge denies bond for Covington motel murder suspect
Terry Yates
Terry Yates - Special to The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. — An accused murderer will remain behind bars after a judge denied a motion to set bond for him during a Tuesday hearing in Newton County Superior Court.

Judge John Ott said he would not set bond for the suspect, Terry Yates, because prosecutors said the suspect had allegedly intimidated witnesses into lying about a May 27 shooting during a party at a Covington motel.

The shooting left Nijee Anderson, 31, dead from a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Yates, 30, is being held in the Newton County Jail on charges of murder, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence.

Ott’s ruling came over the objections of Yates’ attorney, Mario Ninfo, who said his client had never been arrested before the incident at Super 8 motel at Alcovy Road and I-20.

Ninfo said Yates is a native of Covington, and needed to be granted bond because he had a wife and minor child at home. 

He also suffered from bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses, which led to him being placed on suicide watch while in jail, the attorney said.

“Everyone he knows is in Covington,” Ninfo said.

He said he was told all those attending the motel room party had guns and multiple people in the room handling the firearms without regard to safety led to the shooting.

“I don’t believe there was intent to kill anybody,” Ninfo told Ott. “It was just horseplay.”

Assistant District Attorney Alex Stone handled the case for the Alcovy District Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors asked Ott to deny bond because Yates had allegedly intimidated witnesses into lying to protect him and was a risk for fleeing the area to avoid prosecution if granted bond. 

Police investigators determined the suspect had been drinking and smoking marijuana with others in a room at the motel the night of May 27.

He allegedly went to his truck, retrieved a handgun, shot the victim in the temple, grabbed the gun and got in his truck, Ott was told. 

Police reportedly found the weapon used in the incident in a field next to Rocky Plains Road south of Covington.

When officers interviewed witnesses, they first told them Anderson had shot himself in the head but later said they were scared of Yates — who had told them to give that false information to police.

The suspect told investigators the shooting was an accident. He said he was walking by Mr. Anderson when the victim grabbed the gun. It went off and shot the victim in the head, prosecutors said. 

However, witnesses later told police Yates had told the victim, “Say goodbye,” before the shooting occurred.

Prosecutors also told Ott that Yates is a self-proclaimed gang member and had told others he was a member of a well-known area gang that could provide money to allow him to flee the area.