Guilty Plea for 2004 Fatal Shooting

A Murder retrial, expected yesterday in Laurens County General Sessions Court, was preempted with a guilty plea entered on another charge.

Potential jurors reported in for the trail of 51-year-old Rufus Belcher of Georgia Acres Road, Gray Court, who had been sentenced in 2006 to 30 years on a Murder Conviction for the Memorial Day, 2004 fatal shooting of a Fred “Sammie” Suber. In 2009, the Murder conviction was overturned by a State Supreme Court Ruling regarding comments to the jury about assumptions being made from the use of a Firearm.

Yesterday morning, plans were finalized between Prosecution and Defense so that, instead of another Murder trial, Belcher would plead guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter.

Belcher and his attorney, Raunch Wise of Greenwood, stood before Judge Hocker to plead just before noon, with the families of both the defendant and the victim present in the courtroom. Wise said the defense agreed to a guilty plea to Voluntary Manslaughter and Possession of a Weapon in a Violent Crime.

Before sentencing, Chrissy McDonald spoke on behalf of the Suber family, saying “We have to open up a wound once more. It is hard that it was overturned when we thought it was completed.” Speaking of the victim, she said, “He did not have to die that day. How could you do this to family? This should not have happened, there are other ways that this could have been worked out. There are so many unanswered questions, but we have to forgive him, as God says we have to.”

Judge Don Hocker replied, “Yes, I am only a temporary judge.” As he offered his condolences to the victim’s family.

Judge Hocker sentenced Rufus Belcher to 15 years, suspended to serving 48 months, as had been agreed between the state and defense.

 

Judge Hocker then heard guilty pleas from five more defendants and handed down sentences for crimes of Drug Conspiracy, Unlawful Communication, Unlawful Weapons Carrying, Failure to Stop for Blue Lights and Breach of Peace.