Brown Convicted of Capital Murder for 2020 Double Homicide
District Attorney Summer Summerford announced today that Desmond Lavonta Brown was convicted by a Cherokee County jury of CAPITAL MURDER for the 2020 deaths of Vanita Richardson and Truvenia Campbell.
During a routine bridge inspection of a bridge that spans the Etowah River on Loop 1 in Rome, Georgia on May 13, 2020, the bodies of Richardson and Campbell were discovered. A broad criminal investigation immediately began with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) acting as the lead agency. The investigation that included eyewitness statements, cell phone data, and forensic analysis, led to the arrest of Brown for the murders.
The case was presided over by Circuit Judge Shaunathan Bell. Jury selection began on Monday, November 6th and a jury was selected and sworn-in on Thursday, November 9th. Opening statements began on Monday, November 13th. After 33 witnesses and over 130 exhibits were presented, the State rested its case on Monday, November 20th. During the Defendant’s case in chief, only 1 witness took the stand – the Defendant himself. Closing arguments were presented by both sides on Tuesday, November 21st, and after less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a GUILTY verdict.
After a short recess for the Thanksgiving holiday, the penalty phase was held on Monday, November 27th. The jury handed down a verdict of LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE. This means that Brown will spend the rest of his life incarcerated in the Alabama Department of Corrections and he will not be eligible for parole.
The Alabama law regarding punishment in a capital murder case was amended in 2018. Prior to that change, a jury only made a recommendation for punishment and the judge made the final decision of whether someone convicted of capital murder received the death penalty or life without parole. No longer can a judge override a jury if they return a decision for Life without Parole.
“This case was made possible by cooperation between multiple agencies. Many thanks to the many individuals who played a part in this investigation and prosecution. Also, a special thanks to GBI Special Agent Ghee Wilson and the Floyd County District Attorney’s Office. The families of the victims have been diligent during this process. They loved Vanita and Truvenia and are committed to seeing the process through. Many people do not realize how difficult this process is on families who have lost their loved ones in a brutal and horrific way. Our prayers continue for them through this holiday season,” said Summerford. “I also want to say a special ‘thank you’ to the jurors who gave up the better part of a month of their lives to act as the community’s representatives. Their attention during the whole process was extraordinary. Listening and seeing the evidence in this case was not an easy thing to do,” Summerford added.
This case was prosecuted by Summerford, Deputy District Attorney Brady Burns, and Floyd County Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson.