A Baldwin County jury returned a not guilty verdict in the May 2013 murder trial of 21-year-old Quintavious Shantez Horton.
Horton was indicted for murder and felony murder relating to the May 18, 2013 death of 22-year-old Kenneth Lilneal Simmons. Simmons died in a shooting at the American Legion located at 430 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
According to Assistant District Attorney Stephen Bradley, the jury spent close to two and a half hours in deliberation.
"This was a hard case all around," he said. "It was hard on both the families, and we worked tirelessly making sure our facts were correct."
He added that the DA's office along with Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord and Maj. Reginald Hill spent weeks making sure all evidence was concrete and factual.
Horton was represented by attorney Keri Foster Thompson of Gordon.
Bradley said the not guilty verdict came down to witnesses.
Witnesses were brought forth by the defense that suggested Horton acted in self-defense.
"Although we did prove that multiple shots were fired, it came down to witnesses that the defense brought that said [Simmons] might have been the one who pulled his gun first," Bradley said.
Simmons was shot once in the chest with a semi-automatic handgun. Before officers arrived at 1:54 a.m., a female had already transported the victim to Oconee Regional Medical Center.
Simmons died around 2:47 a.m. that Saturday in May.
After collecting eyewitness accounts, police determined the shooting occurred in the Legion's east parking lot.
Police found five 9mm shell casings and a black plastic bag containing marijuana, according to the police report.
While processing the scene, authorities noticed a red Dodge Charger had a bullet hole through the hood and marks from a second bullet. A green Honda Accord had a bullet hole in the right passenger's side windshield as well.
Also, officers reported visible blood smeared on the hood of a silver Ford Mustang.
The police report indicates officers couldn't find anybody who said they actually witnessed the incident or who would provide a statement for authorities. After a few more hours of investigation, MPD identified Horton as the possible shooter.
According to police, Horton submitted to authorities Sunday, May 19.
Horton was originally charged with murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony relating to Simmons’ death.
Bradley may not agree with the verdict but he said he respects the jury’s decision.
"Although the jury found in his favor, I humbly disagree with the verdict. I do, however, respect the time the jury took to analyze all the evidence. This was not the easiest of cases."