TRENTON, Ga. — A former Dade County investigator testified Tuesday that the 19-year-old man on trial on a murder charge made up a story about a stolen car to distract police from the investigation.
Former Detective Nathan Lee told the jury that, after Johnathan Ellison was arrested on March 17, he told the officer that he and 27-year-old James Oglesby had stolen a car from Alabama and ditched it in Whitfield County, Ga.
After investigators spent hours combing a 1,000-acre plot of partially wooded land looking for the car, Ellison admitted he had made up the story to distract investigators, Lee told the jury.
Lee was one of several officers who testified for the state Tuesday in Ellison's trial in Dade County Superior Court on charges of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery.
On cross-examination, Lee said he interviewed Ellison for an hour or two after he and Oglesby were found hiding in a trailer in Whitfield County and arrested.
In opening statements, prosecutors said Ellison and Oglesby had been smoking marijuana before they were arrested.
When he questioned Ellison, Lee said, he didn't believe the suspect was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. He also admitted that Ellison gave several statements that were true and several that weren't but didn't go into detail.
Throughout the day, local and state police were called to testify about a bloody crime scene found at Ellison's home on Sand Mountain.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Audie Murphy testified that, when he arrived at Ellison's house off Gass Road about 9 p.m. on March 16, he entered a living room smeared with blood stains and found two knives -- one under a window and a double-bladed one in the center of the room.
The knife underneath the window had blood on the tip and the handle, according to photos entered as evidence. A corner window also was broken and several bloody handprints were smeared on the blinds, another photo showed.
"Obviously, there is a big struggle that took up the front of the room," Murphy told the jury.
Blood smeared along the window, onto a couch and into the hallway appeared to be from the same person, Murphy testified, but another spot in the middle of the room looked like it came from another person who had been cut.
The jury was shown photos of Hyatte's body, where stab wounds had pierced his back, chest and face. When the jury was shown a close-up shot of Hyatte's swollen face, two female jurors covered their mouths in shock.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...