Johnny Thomas Edwards IV, 36, a former high school football star in Georgia and player at Wake Forest University, was sentenced to life in prison after admitting to the gruesome murders of his mother and his wife, who was pregnant with their first child.
Edwards IV pleaded guilty but mentally ill to two counts of malice murder, and one count of feticide in Fayette County Superior court. Senior Judge Arch W. McGarity last week ordered Edwards IV to serve a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing Dr. Kathy Edwards, 57, and Venus Quanteh, 31, at Dr. Edwards’ home in suburban Atlanta.
“I wanted to send a strong message and my assistant Dan Hyatt agreed, as well as the sheriff, Sheriff Babb,” said Fayette County District Attorney Marie Broder. “We all wanted to send a strong message that when a crime occurs that is this heinous, that life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is the appropriate sentence and that was always what we were striving for.”
On the afternoon of Dec. 7, 2019, Edwards IV made a 911 call, according to reports, where he confessed to killing his mother and wife. Edwards IV and his wife had moved into his parents’ home just weeks before the slayings.
“Yes, I killed my mother and my wife,” said 911 caller Johnny Edwards IV. He went on to say, “Johnny Edwards at 130 Coventry Court, I’ll be outside.”
The autopsy report revealed that both women had been beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed with a knife. At the crime scene a bloodied baseball bat and steak knife were recovered. The former Demon Deacons defensive back’s father was out of town at the time of the killings.
“I recall the day that this happened. It rocked the community. It rocked me. What a violent, violent act,” Broder said. “It was just so brutal and just…I go back to the word violent. I can’t imagine their final moments.”
Edwards IV represented himself during his first court appearance, always a red flag. His subsequent behavior in court prompted the judge to order a competency hearing. According to reports Edwards showed warning signs before the murders, claiming people were out to get him.
Broder’s assertion that a strong message was sent for such a heinous crime is acceptable for those seeking justice. But in this type of case what is justice?
This wasn’t a random man killing random people. This was a family that has two murdered members and a third that will never see the light of day outside of prison walls.
The nature of the crime is heinous and visceral and just as puzzling was Edward IV’s subsequent behavior. Calling the police and confessing and saying you’ll be outside. No resistance of arrest, defending himself in court, and then bizarre behavior that ordered the judge to call for a competency hearing.
During that court appearance in 2000, Judge Christopher Edwards seemingly rendered his own assessment of competency, according to reports.
“Well, my assessment of you is that you are legally competent that you understand the nature of the charges against you,” the judge said, according to the Citizen. “You have — you express some complex understanding of some laws. Although I’m very clearly suggesting to you again that you’re completely misapprehending those laws and you’re seeking to misapply them here to the extent that they are laws. … But you’re certainly alert and oriented to time, place, person and circumstance.”
Does a man referencing habeas corpus and a treaty from the 18th century express “complex understanding” of laws? Is this a person fit to stand trial? Can a judge who is not medically trained in psychiatry make that determination?
Two people were violently murdered and the murderer confessed, so justice must be served, and served heavily. But nothing from the severe punishment or the nature of the case will bring about any closure or true resolution.