Murder Trial Underway In Valdosta

By: Eames Yates; Greg Gullberg; Valdosta Police Department Email
By: Eames Yates; Greg Gullberg; Valdosta Police Department Email
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Updated By: Winnie Wright
May 7, 2014

Valdosta, GA - "The bullet recovered from the victim's body was fired by Michael Pindling's gun", says Assistant Southern District Attorney, Cathy Helms.

Opening statements were read and the first round of expert witnesses were called to the stand Wednesday in the murder of 22 year old, Robert Pett. Michael Pindling and Deron Wallace are both facing charges of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, Armed Robbery, and other charges.

The State argues that the defendants planned to rob Pett at an abandoned home on Walnut Street on July 13 of last year . They say the pair knew that victim was a small time drug dealer who would be carrying cash.

According to the state, the two arranged a drug deal with the victim. A witness said she heard a motorcycle pull up beside her home and then three loud bangs.

When officers arrived on the scene, the victim had been shot three times in the back and shoulder. He was laying in this door way still holding a lit cigarette.

The defense argues that the pair did not work alone. They say 20 year old Kathryn Cortez was dating Wallace at the time and was the plot's mastermind.

"Kathryn suggested, what about Big Rob, that's what they called him. Mr Pett. He apparently was a big man, and they called him Big Rob. He's a dope dealer so he should have plenty of cash. We should get some", says Converse Bright, Deron Wallace's Attorney.

Additional witnesses will be called on Thursday. Kathryn Cortez pleaded guilty to Armed Robbery earlier this year and is expected to testify against Pindling and Wallace some time this week.


Press Release: Valdosta Police Department

On July 19, 2013, an arrest warrant was taken on Kathryn Cortez, 20 year old white female, Valdosta resident, for Armed Robbery in connection with the homicide case involving victim Robert Pett. Cortez voluntarily turned herself in to the Lowndes County Jail on this charge and is currently being held on the charge of Armed Robbery. The investigation revealed that Cortez was involved in the incident which resulted in the death of Mr. Pett. Cortez was familiar with the other two offenders in the case, Michael Pindling and Deron Wallace who have both been charged and arrested involving the death of Pett. Pindling and Wallace have been returned to Lowndes County and are currently being held at the Lowndes County Jail at this time.


Press Release: Valdosta Police Department

Two men, Michael Pindling, 22 year old African American male and Deron Wallace, 21 year old African American male, have been arrested for the murder of Robert Pett that happened on July 13, 2013. The men had been in the Valdosta area for approximately one month and were known to the victim.

Valdosta Police Department Detectives and Criminalist from the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory had collected and analyzed evidence from the case and arrest warrants for murder charges on the two men were obtained yesterday. Detectives obtained information that the suspects had fled the Valdosta Area right after the homicide and possibly headed to New York City.

Information was obtained that the suspects were returning to the Valdosta Area on Wednesday. Authorities along the possible route were notified and Pindling and Wallace were arrested in the Savannah, Georgia area by Georgia State Patrol and Port Wentworth Georgia police.

Valdosta Police Department Detectives executed a search warrant early Thursday morning at a residence that had been occupied by the suspects while they had been in Valdosta and additional evidence related to the homicide was collected to include a handgun possibly used in the offense.

The two suspects face additional criminal charges as the case is further investigated. The two offenders are currently being held at the Savannah-Chatham County Jail in Savannah, Georgia pending their return to Lowndes County. Valdosta Police Department detectives are currently in Savannah following up on the case.

Detectives from VPD did an outstanding job of following up on all leads and tirelessly staying with the case as it progressed quickly. Crime Scene personnel and Forensic Ballistic Specialists from the Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory did an extraordinary job in evidence collection and analyzing evidence to determine its connection to the case. The VPD also appreciates all the assistance given in the investigation by the Georgia State Patrol and Port Wentworth Police who arrested the two offenders at the Georgia/South Carolina state line and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Gang Taskforce who are providing assistance in the follow-up investigation.

Statement from VPD Chief Brian Childress: “I am pleased regarding the fact our detectives took a case with little evidence and eventually identified the two suspects, obtained significant evidence to include a possible murder weapon, and ensured the offenders were arrested without incident. I am also impressed with the performance of the Valdosta/Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory who within less than 24 hours analyzed evidence which linked the suspects to the murder. This was the intent of a local laboratory to conduct evidence analysis quickly and help resolve criminal cases and this case proves our laboratory is working.”


According to Valdosta Police Department:

Two arrests have been made in connection with the murder of 22-year-old Robert Pett, who was found Saturday, July 13, 2013 in an abandoned home in Valdosta.

The men were arrested in Savannah, Ga., and have been charged with murder.

Stay with WCTV for the latest on this developing story.


By Greg Gullberg
July 15, 2013

Valdosta, GA - A mysterious homicide. A man was found dead behind an abandoned house.

Valdosta Police say 22 year old Robert Pett was found Saturday night behind a house on Walnut Street, just off Magnolia, with what appear to be gun shot wounds.

Tommy Bonner lives two doors down. He says he heard the shots and hid in his house.

"Three shots. Pow. Pow. Pow. Like that," said Bonner. "Stuff like that doesn't happen around here. You know what I mean? Because we ain't looking for anything like that to happen, not around here."

Police found the body while responding to a call for prowling.

"A neighbor heard some noises outside, thought there was a possible prowler in the area. So when officers got there they were just checking the area. Not sure if that had anything to do with the actual homicide or not, but they did find him after they responded to the area," said Lt Aaron Kirk with Valdosta Police.

Police say they are looking for a person of interest but have made no arrests.

"We don't know if they had anything to do with it, but they want to talk to them," Lt Kirk said.

Pett's body was taken for an autopsy Monday. Anyone with information is asked to call Valdosta Police. You can do so anonymously.


Press Release: Valdosta Police Department

On July 13, 2013 at approximately 9:30 p.m., police were summoned to an abandoned house located in the 200 block of Walnut Street, Valdosta, Georgia for a possible prowler in the area.

Police arrived on scene and located Robert Pett, 22 year old Caucasian male, who was deceased.

Pett was located at the rear of the house. Police sealed off the area and began to investigate the incident. Valdosta Police Department detectives and criminalist from the Valdosta Lowndes Regional Crime Laboratory gathered evidence and information from the location.

Details regarding injuries to Pett are not being discussed at this time due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Detectives have developed a person of interest and are following up on leads at this time.

An autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is scheduled for today to determine cause of death.

Anyone having any information regarding this case is urged to contact the Valdosta Police Department at 229-293-3135 or may remain anonymous by calling the Crime Tip Line at 229-293-3091.


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