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Walmart murder suspects arraigned in Newton County Superior Court
Brandson Smith is ushered

Stephanie Maria Rodriguez and Brandon Shawn Smith, suspects in a murder at Walmart on Nov. 16, were arraigned in Newton County Superior Court on Wednesday morning. A pretrial date has been set for May 25.

The couple appeared separately for the arraignment. Each was charged with malice and felony murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault in connection with the murder of Marsha Johnson, 65, of Covington.

Johnson, 65, of Covington was leaving the Walmart on Industrial Blvd when Smith allegedly tried to grab her purse. Johnson fought back, according to Covington Police Captain Ken Malcom. She was then dragged away from her car into the path of the rear of Smith’s car, where she was struck and kicked.

According to Malcom, Smith then supposedly jumped into his car and backed over the victim, and then ran over her an additional two times.

The incident was captured on surveillance video.

Smith and Brandon were arrested in Manchester, Tennessee, after police issued an all-points bulletin and video of the couple.

Treadwell said police suspect Rodriguez, 37, originally from New Mexico, and Smith, 27, from Virginia, are responsible for a series of violent purse snatchings in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.

During a pretrial hearing, the defendants, their attorneys and the district attorney meet before the judge to expedite the disposition of the case to decide such preliminary matters such as what evidence will be excluded from the trial and what witnesses will be allowed to testify.

Judge W. Kendall Wynne Jr. told both Rodriguez, represented by Attorney Anthony Carter of the Public Defender’s Office, and Smith, represented by Attorney William A. Morrison of Jones and Womack Law Firm in Atlanta, May 25 would be the last day they could enter into a negotiated plea agreement.

According to District Attorney Layla Zon, the maximum sentence that could be imposed in the case would be life in jail without parole.

Read more about the story at “Two suspects in the Walmart murder arrested in Tennessee,” and “Police seek Walmart murder suspect in Chattanooga,” at