South Georgia Local News

1 Prison, 3 Murders, and 7 Arrests: Here’s What We Know 2 Years Later

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This past Friday marked the two year anniversary of the commencement of the reign of terror stemming from Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. The activities occurring behind the walls of the prison have wreaked havoc on families in southeast Georgia, some with ties to the Georgia Department of Corrections…and other with absolutely no connection at all.

A murder of a delivery truck driver while he slept in his bed with his young daughter.
A botched murder-for-hire that left an innocent 88-year-old man dead. 
A contraband-aggressive corrections officer as the intended target.
An attempted assault on a corrections officer as she drove to her home.
An arrest of another corrections officer trying to smuggle in $29k in cash. 
A murder of an alleged accomplice.  

All tying back to Smith State Prison in Glennville, GA.

Here’s what we know to date:
NOTE: The timeline below is in chronological order, but for the sake of clarity, not all of the information is listed in the order it became available. 
All of the information below has been obtained through public court documents, open court proceedings, and other public information requests under the Georgia Open Records Act. 

March 2019 – Nathan Weekes is transferred to Smith State Prison (Smith SP) in Glennville. Weekes, who is in his mid-twenties, has been incarcerated since he was 14. He was sentenced to prison at age 16 for his role in a string of armed robberies in metro Atlanta. He meets fellow inmate Christopher Reginal Sumlin, Jr who is serving time for Burglary and Possession of a Firearm of a Convicted Felon in Coweta County.

October 1, 2019 – Brian Adams is named Warden of Smith SP following a summer full of riots and extreme gang violence at Smith SP, which resulted in a host of murders inside the walls as well as dozens of criminal indictments for the riots and violence.

Warden Brian Adams

August 24, 2020 – Deldrick Jones uses a drone to drop methamphetamine onto the grounds of Smith SP. Court records suggest that Jones was recruited by Jessica Gerling and Nathan Weekes. 

October 5, 2020, Christopher Reginald Sumlin Jr. is released on parole from Smith State Prison after serving 6 years on his 8 year prison sentence. Following his time on parole, he’ll serve 12 years on probation.  

January 13, 2021 – In Wayne County, Jerry Lee Davis is murdered in his bed where he was asleep with his young daughter. His wife and other children were home at the time. Davis was employed with McDaniel Supply Company, where he drove a delivery truck that frequently delivered to Smith State Prison. GBI Region 14 (Kingsland) begins investigating this case. Indictments will later allege that Christopher Sumlin and Jessica Gerling killed Jerry Davis.

January 30, 2021 – Bobby Kicklighter is murdered in his home in Glennville (Tattnall County). The 88-year-old was discovered shot to death by his family after the alarms on his home were triggered and the alarm company could not reach him. Mr. Bobby had no ties to Smith State Prison or GDC generally. GBI Region 5 (Statesboro) begins investigating this case, spending approximately 17 hours on scene on the first day.

March 31, 2021 – In Liberty County, Alicia Rubin, a corrections officer at Smith SP, was rear-ended in Liberty County and had a gun pulled on her, which was fired at least once. When she flees, she is chased by a man until he crashes into a car wash in Hinesville. Records later reveal the man chasing her was Christopher Reginald Sumlin Jr. He was arrested roughly one week later in Coweta County.

April 20, 2021 – Ireon Moore is arrested for trying to bring in $29,000 into Smith SP as a corrections officer. Moore was hired by GDC in March 2020. Court records later reveal that while GDC CID was searching Moore’s vehicle, a cell phone was discovered ringing from a call from Deivon Waller, an inmate from Smith SP. Waller, who was calling Moore on a cell phone, was Moore’s boyfriend. 

June 28, 2021 – Jessica Gerling is murdered in a mobile home park in Long County. Gerling has ties to Wayne County, but lived in Brunswick at the time. She worked for the Georgia Department of Corrections from February 2020 to July 2020 before she was fired for bringing contraband into Smith State Prison. She was also in a romantic relationship with inmate Nathan Weekes.

August 23, 2021 – The GBI announces 3 arrests in the murder of Bobby Kicklighter:

  • Keisha Jenae Jones – Jones is a former GDC employee who worked at Smith State Prison. Instead of being fired in 2012 after it was discovered she had an ongoing relationship with an inmate, Jones was permitted to resign. According to records from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards & Training Council, Jones was also under investigation for contraband-related issues at the prison. At the time of the Kicklighter murder, Jones was in a romantic relationship with inmate Nathan Weekes.
  • Aerial Deshay Murphy – Murphy lived with Jones in Ludowici and worked at her boutique in Hinesville at the time of Kicklighter’s murder. Jones was also once married to Murphy’s uncle. 
  • Christopher Reginal Sumlin. Jr. – The 31-year-old is a former Smith SP inmate. 

August 25, 2021 – The GBI announces that Smith SP inmate Nathan Weekes has also been charged in the murder of Kicklighter. Sometime prior to this date, Weekes was moved to the Special Management Unit at Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. The facility is supposed to be among the most secure in the state as it is one step down from death row. The public will later learn the security of SMU is as lackluster as Smith SP.  

August 30, 2021The GBI announces Christopher Sumlin has also been charged in the January 13 murder of Jerry Lee Davis.

September 22, 2021 – A Bond and Preliminary Hearing for Sumlin, Jones, and Murphy in Tattnall County Superior Court. All three defendants appear. GBI Agent Christian Johnson, the lead case agent for the Kicklighter murder, testifies that the Kicklighter’s murder was a botched murder-for-hire that was intended for the next door neighbor. The intended ‘target’ was a corrections officer at Smith SP who was known to be aggressive when it came to intercepting contraband. Operating from within the walls of Smith SP, Johnson said, was a multi-million contraband ring which smuggled in cash, drugs, cell phones, designer clothing, jewelry, and other items into the prison. 

Johnson also testifies that Sumlin’s DNA was found on a face mask found at the scene the morning following the murder of Kicklighter and Jones, Weekes, and Sumlin all communicated via text message about the murder plot. (For more on other evidence tied to the four defendants, read this article)

December 15, 2021 – Jones and Murphy appear in court again. Because their cases have not been indicted, bond must be set by a judge. (Both, however, remain behind bars, failing to post bail). More on that hearing here. And also here.

February 27, 2022 – Nathan Weekes and an unnamed co-conspirator make terroristic threats against GDC CO Phillip Dunn of the Special Management Unit at Jackson, as alleged in court documents.

April 25, 2022 – A Tattnall County Grand Jury indicts Sumlin, Jones, Murphy, and Weekes for the murder of Bobby Kicklighter. The lengthy indictment offers specific details on other contraband-related incidents stemming from Smith State Prison. The Davis murder case remains unindicted.

In the Kicklighter indictment, however, all four individuals are charged with Malice Murder, four counts of Felony Murder, Burglary in the 1st Degree, Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and Conspiracy to Commit Murder. 

Weekes, Sumlin, and Jones are also charged under the RICO Act and Sumlin is charged with Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. 

In addition to the facts of the case for Kicklighter, the indictment also outlines the following:

Key elements of the criminal enterprise, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) Squad alleged to have operated from Smith State Prison, for which individuals had the following roles:

  • Nathan Weekes – Kash, “Da President”
  • Deivon Waller – “Vice President”
  • Martin Holmes – “Mayor”
  • Jessica Gerling – “The Queen,” “The Star,” “First Lady” of YSL

Both Gerling and Moore were associated with YSL at the time of their employment with the Georgia Department of Corrections. 

June 28, 2022 – Ireon Moore & Deivon Waller are indicted in Tattnall County for their respective roles in the attempt to bring contraband into Smith SP. Waller is now housed in the Special Management Unit in Jackson. Moore is out on bond. 

September 6, 2022 – Nathan Weekes and Christopher Sumlin appear in Tattnall County Court. They’re both served with paperwork notifying them of the state’s intent to seek the death penalty. In his hearing, Weekes swaps legal counsel

Indictment in Butts County – Sharie Shonta Clark, a Lieutenant in the Special Management Unit within the Georgia Department of Corrections, was fired after being arrested for assisting Nathan Weekes move money on cash apps.

According to a grand jury indictment in Butts County, in the months of June and July 2021, Clark agreed to transfer money on a cash app in exchange for payment for Weekes while he has been housed in the Special Management Unit. The specific amount is not listed in the indictment, but warrants taken out by the GDC Criminal Investigations Division state Clark moved roughly $30,000 to different individuals for Weekes. 

The warrants also say Clark admitted to receiving $2,000 in exchange for moving the money for Weekes. More on this story here.

November 8, 2022 – Weekes and Sumlin again appear in Tattnall County Court for their arraignments, or a formal reading of the charges against them.

January 12, 2023 – Dennis Kraft is arrested for the June 2021 murder of Jessica Gerling in Long County. He appears before a judge for his ‘first appearance’ and bond is denied. Very little information is available, however, according to social media posts, Kraft’s wife, at least at one time, was a very close friend of Keisha Jones. 

January 15, 2023

  • Brian Adams is still the Warden at Smith State Prison, where contraband remains an ongoing issue.
  • Wayne Dasher of Glennville serves as the Board of Corrections member for the 12th Congressional District. He has never publicly acknowledged the event. The position of the Board of Corrections has long been that prisons in Tattnall County are good for the community.
  • Nathan Weekes is in the Special Management Unit in Jackson, along with several of his close friends and accomplices, including those named in the indictment.
  • Sumlin, Jones, and Murphy remain behind bars, pending further court action. Death penalty cases move extremely slowly due to preliminary motions and it is unlikely a trial will begin on the Tattnall County case in calendar year 2023. 
  • There is no evidence that YSL or any part of the YSL enterprise have ceased operations.
Jessica Szilagyi

administrator
Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.' Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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