Superior Court Judge Robert Russell oversaw a multitude of civil and criminal cases on Aug. 27, two of these criminal cases being that of Dwayne Dotson and Eptwarnd Saunders. Both cases were being heard in concerns to securing trial dates.
Dotson, who was arrested in June 2016, will be tried on charges of murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm. Attorneys will be contacting Judge Russell’s secretary to set up a special set hearing. A special set hearing means that on that day, the accused’s hearing will be the only one before the court at that date and time. As of press time Tuesday, a date had not been determined for Dotson’s hearing. Dotson, age 27 at the time of arrest, turned himself into to law enforcement in 2016 after an altercation at Pebble Creek Mobile Home Park on Dunlevie Road. The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and Walthourville Police Department responded to reports of shots fired in the area, and arrived to find Frank Willingham Jr. suffering from three gunshot wounds and Jamell Brown with one fatal gunshot wound.
Willingham was airlifted to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, while Brown was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office news release. A stray bullet also went through the home of a neighbor, reportedly hitting a bunk bed and going between the neighbor’s sleeping children.
Saunders, 31 years old at the time of his arrest, was arrested in Midway in Febuary 2018. He was charged with murder and aggravated assault in the slaying of James Caswell Jones, 62. Jones was found shot beside his pared truck on Freedman Grove Road. Witnesses in the area pointed to Saunders as a person of interest. Saunders was arrested outside of his place of business at Angie’s Diner and was denied bond.
Saunders appeared in court before Judge Russell originally to determine his trial date. The proceedings were stalled as the court tried to identify Saunder’s attorney. It was listed that A J Balbo was his attorney, but Balbo denied this. Saunders informed the court that he had two more payments to make before Balbo would be his attorney. Judge Russell gave him a jury selection date of Sept. 12, however Saunders claimed that he would not be able to obtain Balbo by this time. It was determined that John Ely would, so far, represent Saunders.
It was also discovered that Saunders had never been arraigned. Saunders entered a plea of not guilty and discovery for the case—evidence, interrogatories, and other related documents—were handed over by District Attorney Melissa Poole to Ely. Jury selection for the case remains to be Sept. 12. If found guilty, Saunders could be facing life in prison.