Macon – Jurors have found a man guilty of kidnapping a woman in 2015, forcing her to drive him away from Macon’s Pendleton Homes, 3401 Houston Ave.
Steve Anthony Fort, 22, will be sentenced at a later date. He could face up to 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
A trial began Tuesday for Fort, who also was charged with murder, armed robbery, four counts of aggravated assault and an additional count of kidnapping stemming from the July 21, 2015, fatal shooting of Javoris Butler and events that are alleged to have occurred afterward.
Jurors deliberated more than four hours over two days before finding Fort not guilty on the murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault charges. They were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the second kidnapping count.
Early in the investigation, witnesses provided Bibb County deputies with a description of a man who they suspected had robbed and shot Butler, including facial details they couldn’t have known due to the gunman wearing a mask. Evidence regarding the description and the second suspect came out during the trial.
To convict, jurors must find a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Violent crimes like these present stressful circumstances and it can be difficult for victims to positively identify the perpetrator. We knew from the outset that the early misidentification would present challenges at trial, but we were confident the evidence showed the right person was charged with Mr. Butler’s murder,” District Attorney David Cooke said Friday after the verdict was announced. “We’re grateful that we could achieve justice for the woman kidnapped and plan to pursue the maximum sentence for Mr. Fort.”
Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy Scott Malcor and Assistant District Attorney Ben Conkling presented evidence during the four-day trial showing Butler, 29, was outside his unit at Pendleton Homes with his fiancé, their four children – aged 2 to 10, and two other men when a masked man with a gun came around the building and said, “give it up.”
During the course of the robbery, the gunman was given a child’s backpack that contained marijuana, about $10,000 in cash and a gun.
Despite the gunman receiving the backpack and its contents, Butler was shot multiple times and died of his wounds. Another man was grazed by a bullet during the incident.
That same night, Markees Grier saw someone run into his mother’s unit at Pendleton Homes. Grier later saw Fort, a man he recognized, inside. Fort told Grier to give him a ride. Fort had a gun and a child’s backpack with him.
Speed testified she was terrified as she and Grier were forced to drive Fort away from Pendleton Homes.
One of Fort’s friends testified he and Fort had been riding around on the afternoon before the shooting looking to rob someone. The friend said he dropped off Fort – who didn’t have money — on Houston Avenue across from Pendleton Homes. Later that night the two men went to a nightclub and Fort had money and marijuana.
Fort was arrested in Virginia Aug. 26, 2015, about a month after the killing. He is being held in the Bibb County jail until his sentencing.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack