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The Battalion

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Georgia authorities defend police response in slayings, abduction case

ATLANTA – Authorities said Wednesday they could not have saved four people killed in rural Georgia even though 911 calls reveal police knew of a possible slaying 7 1/2 hours before entering the victims’ homes.
On Jan. 7, Melissa Peeler repeatedly told dispatchers in Gordon and Floyd counties that suspect Jerry William Jones had called her and said he killed her family and kidnapped her three daughters.
After an initial call at 3:30 p.m., police checked the outside of the two homes where the killings occurred, then left after mistakenly concluding that nothing was wrong.
In one phone call at 9:39 p.m., Peeler reiterated that Jones had told her what he had done and bragged about it: ”Looks like I have custody now,” Peeler said Jones told her.
It wasn’t until 11 p.m., following yet another call from Peeler, that police entered the homes in the tiny town of Ranger, about 55 miles north of Atlanta.
Jones is accused of fatally shooting Peeler’s parents, Tom and Nola Blaylock, and strangling Peeler’s sister, Georgia Bradley, and Peeler’s 10-month-old daughter by Jones, Jerri ”Harley” Jones.
Jones was captured a day after the killings during a police chase that ended in East Ridge, Tenn. The three girls were released unharmed.
On Wednesday, Jones waived extradition to Georgia, where he faces murder, kidnapping and weapons possession charges. Jones, who shot himself in the face as the chase ended, is recovering in a hospital.
John Bankhead, a spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, insisted it would have made no difference when police found the bodies.
But Peeler’s sister Kathy O’Donnell said blood was visible on the front door of her parents’ home and police should have known something was wrong.
”I can’t help but think that just maybe had they gone in at that time, maybe my sister might have been breathing,” she said.
Peeler’s 911 calls contradict law enforcement officials’ earlier contention that they didn’t learn about the deaths until about 10:45 p.m. on Jan. 7.
”That’s what the sheriff told us,” Bankhead said. ”I don’t think he knew. You’ll have to ask him.”
Gordon County Sheriff Jerry Davis and County Attorney Suzanne Hutchinson did not return repeated phones calls Wednesday from The Associated Press.
Peeler’s lawyer, Brent Erwin, said her client would have no comment.

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