Butts case goes to grand jury

Jeremy Butts appeared in Jones County Superior Court in Gray on Thursday for the first time since he waived extradition from Texas to Georgia to face a murder charge in the death of 20-year-old Jada Franese Simmons, of Milledgeville. The victim was the mother of a 2-month-old baby.

GRAY, Ga. — A former Army soldier stationed in El Paso, Texas, but originally from Baldwin County, has been indicted by a Jones County grand jury in connection with the May 16 murder of a 20-year-old Milledgeville woman.

Grand jurors also indicted the defendant’s sister, who according to authorities, helped her brother get away following the crime. The shooting happened at a party on Nitrogen Road in Jones County — many of them from Milledgeville and Baldwin County, authorities said.

An eight-count indictment was returned Aug. 2, against 26-year-old Jeremy Xavier Butts, according to records filed in the Jones County Superior Court Clerk’s Office in Gray. Grand jurors indicted Butts on one count of felony murder and seven counts of aggravated assault.

Butts is accused of fatally shooting Jada Franese Simmons, who was one of more than 200 people in attendance at the party. The victim was shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene.

Butt’s sister, Cierra Simone Butts, of Milledgeville, meanwhile, was indicted for hindering the apprehension of a criminal, court records show.

Cierra Butts has been released on bond, but her brother remains jailed without bond in the Jones County Law Enforcement Center in Gray.

The murder case was bound over to a grand jury following a June 10 preliminary hearing presided over by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammell in Jones County Superior Court.

During the hearing, the judge ruled there was more than sufficient evidence for the facts of the case to be presented to a grand jury to decide whether or not to return one or more indictments against the defendant.

In addition, Trammell denied defense attorneys’ request to set a bond on behalf of Jeremy Butts. 

The judge denied a request from Cedric Davis, one of Butts’ two defense attorneys. Davis is practices law out of Milledgeville. The other defense attorney is Adriane Patrick of Atlanta.

Trammell’s order cited the serious nature of the offenses that Butts is charged with, as well as the possible flight risk from the jurisdiction as reasons for denying bond.

Two days after Simmons was shot to death, Jeremy Butts, who is no longer in the military, was taken into custody near his residence in El Paso, Texas, by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The preliminary hearing was sought by the defense attorneys.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III called only witness to testify during that hearing.

Crystal Murphy, an investigator with the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, testified that she was the on-call investigator on the night of May 16 when the fatal shooting happened.

Murphy testified that when she got to the scene, she saw Simmons’ body inside the threshold of a door leading outside the residence where the party was held. Murphy pointed out that several bullet holes had been fired into the doorframe, the door and the ceiling of the room.

Three of those projectiles were recovered from the laundry room, while a fourth one was recovered from the victim during the performance of an autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory in Decatur. 

Murphy said one of the individuals who attended the party told her that Butts was there, too, and that his sister was with him.

At least one witness reportedly told the investigator that they had seen Jeremy Butts pull out a silver revolver at the party.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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