Augusta District Attorney Jared Williams’ office has successfully prosecuted 17 violent crime cases so far in 2021, despite being understaffed and dealing with the pandemic that threatened to grind the wheels of justice to a halt.
One of those prosecutions involved Quame Collins. Collins, 30, of Hephzibah has been linked to at least six murders locally and possibly even more in New York state, according to Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams. Most people living in Richmond and Burke counties did not know that a serial killer was operating in the area.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office and GBI finally managed to end Collins’ crime spree when they charged him with the murders of Louis Grubbs, 64, and Marshal Jordan, 65, both of Burke County, who were sitting in their home playing dominoes when Collins burst into the home and started shooting.
According to Jared Williams, the case was difficult even though they did have an eyewitness. One witness, who was central to the case, had to be compelled to testify because she was afraid of her own fate if Collins were to be found not guilty.
Ultimately, Collins was found guilty and sentenced to two consecutive life terms with no parole plus an additional life term and 45 years. Williams said that case was won due to the tenacity of his assistant district attorney, Ryne Cox.
“When I came in, we made him a team leader, and he has just taken that and really run with it. He’s done such an amazing job,” Williams said.
Upon taking office, Williams created a Special Victims Unit headed up by veteran prosecutor, Deshala Dixon-Murray. The SVU focuses on crimes against children, women and the elderly.
In what was a complicated case, Assistant District Attorneys Kevin Davis and William Hammett were able to convict successfully Jack Allen Dodgen for molesting a child family member for the better part of a decade. They used text messages as evidence. The messages included thinly veiled language that he sent to his victim.
“The jury really had to read between the lines in what (Dodgen) was saying in those texts. They took their time and evaluated the evidence, and in the end, they made the right decision,” Williams said.
Dodgen was sentenced to life plus 20 years.
Even before taking office, critics such as his opponent in the 2020 district attorney’s race, Natalie Paine, cited Williams’ former job as a defense attorney and his status as a Democrat as proof that he is soft on crime.
According to Williams, his office’s track record of convictions in just ten months proves that he is tough on crime but also committed to crime prevention. Currently, almost 5,000 cases are pending before the court, and Williams said that he had to change the focus of the office to keep the most violent of criminals off the streets and in prison where they belong.
“One of our first initiatives was to change the priorities to focus on violent crimes, focus on sex crimes and tackle the issues directly impacting public safety,” Williams said.
Williams created a pretrial diversion program that gives young people and first-time offenders who commit lower-level non-violent crimes the ability to atone themselves rather than serve jail time and have a conviction on their records. According to Williams, those eligible must complete a rigorous program to have their cases vacated and the program both gives people a second chance to become productive citizens and frees up his office to spend its time focusing on putting away violent felons.
Williams’ next priority is to fulfill his campaign promise to create a crime prevention program aimed at keeping children in school and out of jail, he said.
“I’m fighting to make this a safer community. I believe you can achieve justice in a number of ways. It’s not one size fits all. I believe in giving opportunities to non-violent offenders, but I also believe in tackling serious violent felonies and sex crimes,” Williams said.