Alleged FEAR (Forever Enduring Always Ready) militia member and co-conspirator Heather Salmon went before Superior Court Judge Robert L. Russell III on Thursday at the Long County Courthouse in Ludowici. Salmon was in court to begin proceedings regarding her assignment of a new defense attorney in the December 2011 murder case of Tiffany York, 17, and Michael Roark, 19.
During the status conference, Russell said that Salmon had filed a motion requesting that her attorney, Charles Nester, be removed from her case. Nester also had filed a motion to relinquish the case because he claimed that Salmon’s mother, Kelly Brodel, made threats against him. Russell said that Brodel allegedly threatened Assistant District Attorney Isabel Pauley as well, and, as a result of the allegations, he signed an order May 19 relieving Nestor of his duties. The judge added that charges had been filed in Chatham County against Brodel, and a court appearance will take place.
Russell said he contacted the director of the Georgia Public Defender’s office and the head of the conflict attorney’s office regarding Salmon’s lack of representation. Normally, he said, when a defendant requests to dismiss their pubic attorney, the defendant then is responsible for hiring a new attorney. However, under these circumstances, a new defense attorney soon will be appointed for Salmon.
She faces charges of malice murder, felony murder, violations of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, firearm possession during the commission of a crime, aggravated assault and making a false statement. Her husband, Christopher Salmon, and fellow FEAR members Anthony Peden and Michael Burnett already pleaded guilty to their involvement in the 2011 murders that occurred near Morgan Lake in Long County.
York’s mother, Brenda Thomas, attended Monday’s court proceeding. She said that even though the four other members of FEAR pleaded guilty in their cases, she believes Heather Salmon will take her case to trial.
“I’m so grateful that the others have pled, and it went very quickly, and I’m very thankful for that. I believe that in Heather’s case, I feel like she’s going to fight it,” Thomas said.
Even though she’s confident the trial will proceed, Thomas said that with all of the evidence and testimony from the others who’ve already pleaded guilty, the prosecution will have what they need to convict Salmon.
After court Thursday, Thomas said she can’t understand how Heather Salmon could have played a role in the murders.
“She seems so cold, and I just can’t grasp her being a mom and giving birth to a child — more than one (child) — how she would do something or be a part of something that was so evil and bad,” Thomas said.
Thomas also weighed in on Brodel’s alleged actions and said that it’s hard for a mother when her child commits a crime, but that child still needs to be punished.
“We, as parents, love our children, but if a child has done something wrong, they should be held accountable for their actions,” Thomas said.
Even though she’d prefer Salmon to enter a guilty plea and spare everyone a trial, if proceedings do continue, Thomas is prepared to work through her grief.
“It’s going to be OK. God is going to give me the strength like He has to handle this, and it’s going to be OK,” she said.