The ordering of bond for a man charged with a host of sex crimes in Effingham County has drawn a stark contrast in how cases are handled for some in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit.
Investigators with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took out warrants for 28-year-old Tyler David Hood on September 15. The warrants entailed ten separate felony charges involving one accuser under the age of 16. Hood was charged with:
- Sodomy (3 counts)
- Statutory Rape (2 counts)
- Child Molestation (2 counts)
- Aggravated Child Molestation (1 count)
- Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes (2 counts)
- Hood turned himself into authorities and has remained in the custody of the Effingham County Jail ever since.
Good Moral Character
Preceding his bond hearing in October, Hood’s attorney, Springfield defense attorney Mickey Kicklighter, filed an Amended Motion for Bond, in which he included letters of support and character references for Hood. Kicklighter highlighted that Hood was raised by a single father, who is also Assistant Superintendent of the Effingham County School System, and who also took him to Mass every week. The Motion cited Hood’s mother leaving the home when Hood was just one-year-old and noted that Hood, who is now 28-years-old, always made good grades in high school and was ‘never suspended.’
“Both of Defendant’s grandfathers are former military, and Defendant was inspired by their example,” the Motion reads before delving into Hood’s own service in the U.S. Air Force.
The Motion included four character witness letters from employees of the Effingham County School System, a number of letters from family members, and a job offer, should Hood need it upon release from jail.
Risk of Fleeing, Intimidation, or Other Felonies
Hood’s attorney argued that Hood posed no threat of fleeing due to him voluntarily turning himself in back in September and his voluntary surrender of his cell phone to investigators. Additionally, the Motion argued Hood posed no threat of intimidating witnesses because of his family’s ties to law enforcement. His grandfather served the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office for 50 years and his uncle is currently a Captain with the Garden City Police Department in Chatham County, Kicklighter pointed out.
Finally, the Motion suggested that in the event that bail was posted, Hood would have a job lined up if he was also terminated from the military due to the pending charges.
Bond Denied in October
On October 14, Judge Muldrew denied Hood’s request for bond, citing that the “Defendant poses a significant risk of witness intimidation.”
On October 18, defense counsel filed an affidavit signed by Hood’s mother, which noted her out-of-state residency as an opportunity for Hood to leave Effingham County, pending further court action.
Three weeks later, on November 3, the defense filed a second affidavit from Hood’s mother, further stipulating that she would ensure Hood would return to Effingham County.
Most Recent Bond Hearing
Attorney Mickey Kicklighter’s associate, Brian Fussell, handled Thursday’s hearing due to another court conflict by Kicklighter.
Last Thursday’s hearing lasted all of seven minutes, as the matter had been heard just 45 days prior, but Hood’s attorney asked the court to allow him to be released on bond to go to his mother’s house in Tennessee. Fussell argued that the rural area not far from Nashville was 8+ hours from Effingham County and would eliminate any risk of witness intimidation. “We’re not disputing the seriousness of the charges,” Fussell said. “But Mr. Hood comes from the armed forces and he’ll have no issue complying with bond orders and court obligations.”
Fussell also told the Court that Hood’s wife had initiated divorce proceedings in Screven County, but that Hood’s desire right now is to provide for his one-year-old son.
State Still Opposed to Bond
Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon told the Court that the state still opposed bond because ‘not enough has changed to warrant bond.’ Hood, he said, had instructed witnesses to destroy evidence prior to his arrest.
“He didn’t have an issue with the armed forces until he admitted to some of the acts to his commanding officer,” Breedon said.
“It’s not ‘if’ he will be convicted, but ‘when’ he will be convicted,” Breedon fired back, repeating one of his reliable shots he often uses in his preliminary hearings.
Despite the brevity of the hearing, Muldrew said he wanted to review the filed affidavits and would issue a ruling ‘soon.’
One week later, on Friday, December 9, Muldrew set bond for Hood. The bond came four days after a grand jury formally indicted him.
Under Georgia law, defendants are statutorily entitled to a bond if, after 90 days in custody, they are not indicted by a grand jury. Once an indictment is returned, there is no longer an statutory obligation outlined under the law for bond to be set as the case moves toward trial. It all remains at the judge’s discretion.
December 15 would mark 90 days for Hood, but with the grand jury convening December 5, if a true bill of indictment is returned, he could be held for the duration of the pre-trial proceedings, which are averaging two to three years in the Ogeechee Circuit at this time.
As of December 9, Hood was no longer listed as an inmate in the Effingham County Jail, but at the close of business, no Order had been filed online for public review, listing bond conditions. Court records show Hood will be arraigned on January 5, 2023.
Other Defendants with Same Charges Remain Behind Bars
According to the Effingham County Jail roster, the following individuals are currently being held without bond:
Matthew Crews was arrested in August 2022 for Aggravated Child Molestation, Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, Sodomy, and Cruelty to Children. He is being held without bond.
The listed accuser in Crews’ case is the same as the listed accuser in Hood’s case.
27-year-old Joshua Feldkamp was arrested on July 15, 2021. A grand jury returned an indictment on September 20, 2021 on charges of Child Molestation (x2), Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, and Criminal Attempt to Commit a Felony (that felony being Rape). On October 20, 2021, Judge Muldrew denied bond for Felkamp and his case awaits further court action.
Hanna Nicole Hunt was arrested in April 2022. A grand jury indicted her in July 2022 on charges of Sexual Exploitation of Children (x3) and Distribution of Material Depicting Sexual Conduct.
Kyle Johnson, 38, was arrested in September 2019 and in October 2019, Judge Muldrew denied bond for Johnson, citing a 1.risk of intimidating witnesses and 2. Significant danger to the community generally. The same month, a grand jury returned an indictment for Rape, Incest (x2), Aggravated Child Molestation (x4), Sexual Battery, Child Molestation (x3), Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes, and Cruelty to Children (1st degree)(x2). For more than three years, the case has been pending with no action.
George Andrew Smith was arrested in July 2021. In September 2021, a grand jury indicted Smith on one count of Rape, two counts of Child Molestation, one count of Aggravated Child Molestation, and one count of Aggravated Sodomy. Bond was denied by Judge Peed in September 2021 and has not been reconsidered.
In this instance, the defendant has adjudicated cases from 1996 (Statutory Rape & Child Molestation in in one case and another 1996 case of Aggravated Child Molestation). In both cases, the defendant entered negotiated guilty pleas.
Zdzislaw Tatara was arrested on October 18, 2022 for Sexual Exploitation of Children (downloading & sharing from internet). On November 22, 2022, Judge Thompson denied bond, but offered no reason for the denial on the paperwork.
Chad Hill was arrested in July 2019 on charges of Child Molestation and Aggravated Sexual Battery. Bond was denied in August 2019 and again in October 2020. The case is still pending.