Alapaha District Attorney Office Obtains Three Life Sentences in One Month
Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney Chase L. Studstill reports that in the last thirty days, the Alapaha Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office has obtained convictions on three separate cases resulting in life sentences in each case and assisted in the federal prosecution of a fourth case resulting in a 60 year sentence.
Jason Aaron Clendenen, 31, and Shannon Brooks, 30, were sentenced in Cook County on Wednesday February 1st for their roles in an incident that took place with a minor. Investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Cook County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the pair after a child under the age of 14 reported to authorities that she had been drugged and raped. Further investigation by both law enforcement agencies led them to an address on Cleveland Street in Sparks, Georgia. After executing warrants on the residence, recorded images of a sex act between Clendenen and the minor were recovered as well as evidence of illegal drug use that substantiated the allegations of the minor child. Multiple charges were levied against the pair including charges of child molestation
On February 1st, 2023, Clendenen was sentenced to life in prison for trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, 15 years in prison for cruelty to children, life in prison for aggravated child molestation and life in prison for aggravated sexual battery. All sentences were to run concurrent to each other for a total of life in prison.
For her role, Brooks was sentenced to 20 years for cruelty to children in the first degree with the first four years to be served in the Department of Corrections.
One week later, on February 8, 2023, Lebray Berrien was sentenced in another Cook County case to life in prison for the December 19, 2020 murder of Tenesha Mordon on Birch Street in Adel. Ms. Mordon’s body was found in a wooded area after members of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Adel Police Department received a call to 911. The GBI medical examiner’s office performed an autopsy and determined that Ms. Mordon had died from multiple gunshot wounds from a 9mm handgun. Further investigation by the GBI led to the arrest of Berrien.
Assistant District Attorney Laura Anderson Wood assisted in the prosecution of this case and argued for life without the possibility of parole at sentencing.
Less than a month later, Madison Avery King was sentenced in Berrien County to life in prison. In 2019 local investigators with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department were alerted to social media and internet activity related to potential child abuse. King was charged in both state and federal court and received a 25 year sentence in federal court. King was originally charged with over 20 warrants including aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, incest, computer pornography and several counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
King was arrested after evidence was obtained from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who executed a search warrant in Tallahassee on the residence of Gregory Johnson. Messages on Johnson’s phone found as a result of that warrant showed both video and written messages indicating that King and Johnson conspired to produce child pornography. Video evidence taken from the phone depicted the abuse of the victim who was a toddler. Both King and Johnson were sentenced in federal court for the charges related to the electronic transmission of the pornography across state lines, however, King was returned to Berrien County for prosecution of the remaining warrants related to the actual physical abuse of the victim toddler. King received a life sentence for aggravated sodomy, a life sentence for aggravated child molestation, 50 years in prison for trafficking a person for sexual servitude, and 50 years for incest.
This case was prepared and prosecuted by the Chief Assistant District Attorney for the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, J. Allen Lawson.
District Attorney Studstill also reports that in a fourth case, his office stood prepared to try a fourth case that resulted in a 60 years sentence. On March 2, 2023, Jonathan Hardin was sentenced to serve 60 years in federal prison for producing child sexual assault material. The case was investigated as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children. Investigation of this case began when a member of the GBI task force contacted investigators with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department about a possible child molestation in October of 2022. Further investigation led to the confiscation of Hardin’s phone ultimately resulting in his indictment in Berrien Superior Court for sodomy, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes and statutory rape. Further investigation by investigators with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department revealed multiple victims including one child that resided in Florida. After consultation, the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s investigators referred the case for federal prosecution.
District Attorney Studstill stated, “We kept our case open until the U.S. Attorney’s Office made a determination on which charges they would prosecute. This is usually the situation when we have a case that has been referred for federal prosecution. We work well with them, but there are times when they will only prosecute some of the charges and the rest remain in our jurisdiction. We also have to be mindful of rules against double jeopardy which may prevent us from prosecution of the same crime in both state and federal court. A lot of people have trouble understanding that, but ultimately what we want to do is obtain justice for our victims.
In this particular case, there is not an option for parole in Federal Court, and my office determined that since Mr. Hardin will be over 90 years of age when his sentence ends, we will not move forward on it because of the federal sentence unless something drastic happens. This prosecution is different than what occurred in the Madison King case. In the King case, we did not have to worry about double jeopardy even though she was also prosecuted in Federal Court. After reviewing the evidence, which included video of her crimes, we felt her actions against the child were so egregious that it was necessary to seek a life sentence.”
Studstill went on to say that “Investigators Rebecca Dowdy and Wayne Luke with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department worked tirelessly on this case and remained in close contact with members of the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the U.S. Probation Office. The Berrien County Sheriff’s office was instrumental in bringing this case to an end. I would also like to thank U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Peter D. Leary, Special Agent in Charge, Katrina Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and Alabama, and Jessica McFadden with the U.S. Probation Office who maintained contact with our office throughout the duration of these cases.
The case was prepared for grand jury and trial by our Chief Assistant District Attorney Allen Lawson. Our office was notified of Hardin’s sentence in Federal Court at the exact same time Madison King was being sentenced in the Berrien Superior Court for her crimes. This case is the perfect example of our office working with multiple agencies to insure justice for the victims in our circuit. This case was also part of our periodic AMDT meetings with the Department of Family and Children’s Services, the Children’s Advocacy Center and the investigators from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. These local agencies are invaluable to the citizens of this community and have my deepest respect and thanks for a job well done.”