RISING FAWN, Ga. — One of the witnesses in a December killing says she did not actually see Samuel Alfred Street pull the trigger, contradicting what she supposedly told police hours after the shooting.
"This is the first time I've seen Sam Street in 20 years," Kristy Hatfield testified during a preliminary hearing in Dade County Magistrate Court on Jan. 17. "I mean, face to face, you know?"
Her statement contradicts that of Dade County Deputy Nathan Sledge, who reported to the scene of the shooting at 106 Highway 11 South around 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 15. Sledge said he interviewed Hatfield and Justin Keith, the only other known witness to the shooting. At the time, Sledge said, there didn't seem to be any question about who pulled the trigger.
"I asked Ms. Hatfield and Mr. Keith if they recognized who was at the driveway [at the time of the shooting]," Sledge recalled during the hearing last week. "And they both mentioned Sambo Street, which I later learned was Sam Street."
Hatfield said the interview was recorded, evidence that Street's attorneys have not yet received.
A week after the killing, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged Street, 70, with murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime. Hatfield testified last week that she, Keith and Justin Alfrey drove to a doublewide manufactured home where Street's son, Ryan, lived on the night of the shooting. According to a search warrant affidavit, the three planned to buy marijuana at the home.
Keith and Hatfield told investigators they walked to the front porch while Alfrey stayed in the car. As they knocked on the door, Hatfield testified, they heard a vehicle pull up. She said two men got out, and one fired a single shot into the car. Police later found Alfrey, 30, dead with a gunshot through his left temple.
Street remains in jail without bond. After last week's preliminary hearing, Magistrate Tracy Maddux agreed to send the case to a grand jury that will decide whether to indict Street. The burden of proof for a preliminary hearing is lower than that of a criminal trial, and magistrates send most cases to the next stage. But Street's attorneys, Bobby Lee Cook and Sutton Connelly, used the hearing as a chance to form their legal strategy.
They zoomed in on Hatfield's testimony. In addition to telling the attorneys she could not identify Street, she testified that two people appeared that night: the shooter and another man. Keith, on the other hand, told investigators he saw only one person.
Hatfield said the shooter wore a jacket. Keith said the shooter wore a flannel shirt, jeans and a hat — a description that matched what Street wore when he showed up at the crime scene later that morning, GBI Special Agent Dan Nicholson testified last week.
Another key issue on the case is the time frame of the shooting. A 911 call did not come in until around midnight. But Hatfield testified that the shooting happened around 9 or 9:30 p.m., lining up with what Alfrey's fiance previously told the Times Free Press. On the night of the shooting, she said, Alfrey kissed her goodbye around 9 p.m. and told her that he needed to drop somebody off.
The time frame raises questions about why the witnesses didn't alert police sooner. Hatfield testified that she and Keith ran away after the shooting. She hid in the woods, though she doesn't know how much time passed. Eventually, she and Keith drove away from the property and called 911 from somebody else's house.
According to a search warrant affidavit, investigators took a cellphone covered in blood and gray hair from the car where Alfrey died. They plan to pull DNA evidence from the hair.
Street's attorneys have requested a bond hearing, which they expect to take place in Dade County Superior Court on Feb. 7.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.