Wayne County Trials: State v. Robert Evans Sr. / State v. James Eldon Echols Jr.

25 February 2022

District Attorney Keith Higgins announces the results of two criminal jury trials held during the week of February 14-17, 2022, before Judge Kathy S. Palmer, in Wayne County Superior Court.

Robert Evans Sr., 58, from Wayne County, was convicted of Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony following the March 26, 2019, shooting death of his nephew, Spence Pearce Jr., 19, at his home in Screven. The shooting followed a physical altercation between the victim, Pearce Jr., and his other uncle, Marvin Evans, the brother of the defendant. Following the altercation, wherein Marvin Evans suffered a laceration with bleeding over each eye, he went into his bedroom, locked his door and called the police and his brother, defendant Robert Evans. The defendant drove from Jesup to Screven, arriving at the residence before the police. The defendant allegedly walked up to the porch with his gun in his hand and confronted his nephew, who had invited him up on the porch so he could tell him what happened. According to two eyewitnesses, who were both family members, the defendant pointed the gun at the victim, shot him without provocation, and then left the scene without checking on the victim or his brother. The defendant’s testimony at trial conflicted with that of the witnesses, and he claimed that the shooting was accidental and he never intended to shoot the victim.

The Wayne County jury deliberated and subsequently convicted the defendant of Aggravated Assault and Possession of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony and acquitted him of Malice Murder, Felony Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter. Judge Palmer deferred sentencing in this case, with sentencing expected in March 2022. Chief Assistant District Attorney Melissa Himes, who prosecuted this case, thanked the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) for their investigative work and support for the prosecution at trial, for both this case and the Echols case below.

In the second jury trial, in which Assistant District Attorney Christina Wascher represented the State, James Eldon Echols Jr., 40, from Ludowici, was convicted of Felony Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, Driving without a License and a Taillight Violation, following an August 12, 2020, incident. During the incident, the defendant attempted to flee WCSO Deputies Timothy Hillyard and William Chitty, who observed him driving his motorcycle without a working taillight on Highway 23 North. Concerned for the driver’s safety, the deputies activated their emergency lights and siren to effect a vehicle stop. The defendant turned onto Doctortown Road and accelerated to speeds in excess of 100 mph, in an attempt to flee and elude the deputies. The deputies caught up with the defendant when he turned around and stopped on the side of the road facing in the opposite direction. As he attempted to flee again, the defendant sideswiped a patrol vehicle and the deputies apprehended him.

Following jury deliberations, Echols was convicted of Felony Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, Driving without a License and a Taillight Violation, and acquitted of Driving with No Insurance. Judge Palmer sentenced Echols to two years with 240 days to serve on the Fleeing charge; 12 months probation to run consecutive with drug treatment on the Driving without a License charge; and, he was fined $122.00 for the Taillight Violation.

Members of the media with further questions may contact the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office at 912-554-7200.

Open Records Act Request: Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 50-18-71(b)(2), the Open Records Officer for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office is Cathy Browning. Written requests should be submitted to her via email at cbrowning@pacga.org or by mail to the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Attention: Cathy Browning, 210 E. 4th St., Woodbine, GA 31569.
Media Policy: The Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney aims to scrupulously follow the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. The office is not ethically allowed to answer many questions posed by reporters, whatever the journalistic merit. The office cannot, for example, discuss an accused party’s criminal history or speculate about the impact of a particular piece of evidence. These rules are in place to ensure a defendant’s rights to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.