Fort Valley – The Byron man who fatally shot two Peach County Sheriff’s Office deputies on Nov. 6, 2016, pleaded guilty Thursday to murder and additional charges.
Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr., 59, was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 100 years in prison.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer and two counts of aggravated assault during a hearing in Peach County Superior Court.
If the case had gone to trial, the prosecution would have presented evidence showing:
At approximately 5:30 p.m. a woman called Peach County 911 to report that her neighbor had threatened two young men with a gun.
Peach County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Patrick Sondron and Deputy Daryl Smallwood responded to the woman’s house on Highway 42 in Byron and took statements from several witnesses. After watching a video of the incident, the deputies determined Elrod had threatened the men with a shotgun while they were riding a motorcycle and a four-wheeler on Hardison Road in front of Elrod’s home.
Deputies Sondron and Smallwood then drove around the corner and spoke with Elrod at his home. Elrod denied the allegations against him and described a different version of events. The deputies then told Elrod the incident had been recorded on video and that they were placing him under arrest.
As Sgt. Sondron moved to arrest him, Elrod drew a concealed pistol and fatally shot both deputies. A neighbor saw the shooting and called 911 for help.
Elrod went inside his home and put on a bullet-proof vest and other tactical gear before returning to his driveway with an assault rifle and an AK-47-style shotgun. As additional law enforcement officers began to arrive, Elrod fired shots at them. A Byron Police officer was able to use a ballistic shield to get closer to Elrod and shot Elrod in the abdomen.
Sgt Sondron was taken to the hospital in Byron, but he died before regaining consciousness. Deputy Smallwood was taken to The Medical Center in Macon where he died from his injuries three days later. Autopsies showed both men died from the gunshot wounds inflicted by Elrod.
Investigators reviewed dash cam videos from the deputies’ cars that recorded the deputies’ interaction with Elrod. They also watched video from Elrod’s home security video system. The videos show Elrod shot Sgt. Sondron and Deputy Smallwood without any legal justification.
When questioned by the GBI, Elrod admitted to shooting both deputies, saying he did so because he didn’t want to go to jail.
Prosecutors filed a notice with the court Jan. 12, 2017, saying they planned to seek the death penalty against Elrod, and began preparing for trial. After learning that a majority of the deputies’ family members favored a plea bargain, prosecutors began plea negotiations this summer.
District Attorney David Cooke will address the media in a news conference Thursday afternoon to further discuss the decision to accept today’s plea. Video from the news conference will be posted to the District Attorney’s Office’s Facebook page.
For more news from the District Attorney’s Office, follow on Twitter @DA_DavidCooke, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DADavidCooke and on Instagram at da_davidcooke.
Contact: Amy Leigh Womack