published Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

No bail for Polk County slaying suspect

BENTON, Tenn. — A Polk County man accused of shooting three people in the head was denied bond Wednesday.

George Steven Waters, 33, showed little emotion during the brief proceedings in General Sessions Court. He is accused of slaying his uncle, aunt and cousin in a property dispute.

While Waters' face was blank, a couple of family members in the courtroom visibly struggled to hold back their tears.

"The defendant extinguished the lives of his victims, each of them shot in the head," said Drew Robinson, assistant district attorney for the 10th Judicial District, which serves Polk, Bradley, McMinn and Monroe counties.

Waters is charged with slaying Willard Waters, 61, his wife Wanda, 59, and their son, Doug, 40. The three were found Friday on rural property on George Road in the Grassy Creek community.

Wanda and Doug Waters were dead at the scene and Willard Waters died a short time later at the hospital.

Robinson had requested a bond of $1 million, but Special Judge Ashley Ownby denied it altogether, citing public safety issues. Ownby said the defendant could request bail at a later hearing.

Waters' attorney, Scott Kanavos, argued that the key issue in the bond is whether his client is a flight risk, not a safety one. He said Waters' continued incarceration in the Polk County Justice Center would be a needless waste of taxpayer dollars when his client could be working and taking care of his family before his preliminary hearing, set for Nov. 14.

"The defendant is dug into the community," Kanavos said. "He is not going anywhere."

The defense requested a bail of $300,000 citing a case within the district in which the defendant received $100,000 bail for a single murder charge.

Robinson contended that the safety of Waters and the public at large outweighed other concerns. The triple homicide was related to "an ongoing saga," Robinson said.

Law enforcement officials have said they have responded to property-related disputes between the defendant and the victims in the past.

After the arraignment, Kavanos said that neither he nor Waters' family had any comment to make.

Robinson said he would be handling the state's prosecution but had no further comment regarding the case.

Polk County General Sessions Court Judge Bill Baililes, originally scheduled to preside over Waters' arraignment, recused himself due to a potential conflict of interest in which one of his former employees is related to the defendant. He appointed Ownby, a Cleveland attorney, to serve on the bench for Wednesday's proceedings.

Court officials said they are seeking another judge for Waters' preliminary hearing.

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