Two men accused of murders that happened two years ago this month made their first appearance in Long County Superior Court on Friday morning.
Alleged co-conspirators and members of the Forever Enduring Always Ready militia Anthony Peden and Christopher Salmon went before Long County Superior Court Judge Robert Russell. The men once again were informed the state will seek the death penalty for their alleged involvement in the murders of Tiffany York, 17, and her boyfriend, Michael Roark, 19, on Dec. 4, 2011, at Lake Morgan.
The duo once was represented by Georgia public defender Brandon Clark, but because the state is seeking the death penalty, Peden and Salmon were assigned new attorneys from the Georgia capital defender’s office.
Attorneys Burton Baker and Melinda Ryals are representing Peden. Amber Pittman and Carole Camp represent Salmon. The attorneys first were introduced in July when the now-convicted FEAR ring leader Pvt. Isaac Aguigui pleaded guilty for his role in hatching a plot to have the young couple killed. His group also reportedly planned to poison the apple crop in Washington state, bomb Savannah’s Forsyth Park, overthrow the federal government and assassinate the president of the United States.
Aguigui testified that it was Peden and Salmon who shot and killed York and Roark. He said the teens were killed because they knew too much about the group and members feared they would tell authorities.
Because both defendants have new attorneys, the entire judicial process will start over. The suspects’ Friday morning court appearances were considered their first hearings.
New information did come to light regarding Peden. Baker said his client suffers from brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder due to things he saw while in combat in Afghanistan. Baker said his client has undergone two mental evaluations and soon will be seen by a neurologist.
The attorneys also said they are in talks with the U.S. Army to see if the military wants to exercise its right in the jurisdiction of the case. Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden said that until the Army decides to do that, the state plans to prosecute the case as planned, within its rights.
Both defendants were issued dates for their arraignments with their new attorneys. Peden is scheduled for March 6, and Salmon will be arraigned April 3.