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Odum woman pleads guilty to murder of mother, stepfather

Heather Tipton, 37, gets life for helping boyfriend shoot and rob parents in 2012, DA says

Posted: August 8, 2014 - 12:08am  |  Updated: August 8, 2014 - 10:05pm

An Odum woman was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after she pleaded guilty to murder and acknowledged that she helped her much younger boyfriend shoot her mother and stepfather to death.

Heather Tipton, 37, pleaded guilty in Wayne County Superior court to two counts each of murder and violating the state criminal street gang act and single counts of making a false statement to police and tampering with evidence, said John B. Johnson, the senior prosecutor who was ready to take the case to trial Monday.

Officers found the bullet-riddled bodies of 58-year-old Anne and 55-year-old Auda Love in their Odum home Oct. 12, 2012, a day after their deaths, Johnson said.

Tipton and her boyfriend, Antonio Lanier of Jesup, who was 19 at the time, and a friend of theirs, Lintay Beard, also of Jesup were arrested soon after the Loves’ bodies were discovered, Johnson said.

Lanier faces the same charges as Tipton, but Beard faces only a charge of tampering with evidence in helping Tipton and Lanier dispose of guns, Anne Love’s purse and other items, Johnson said.

Auda Love’s sister, Jane Love Hine, told the Times-Union most of the family is happy with the verdict and that they will be spared the grisly details that would have come out at trial.

What they’ve heard and seen already is shocking and stunning, she said.

“We couldn’t have an open casket [funeral] because they shot my brother in the face,’’ she said. “It blew us away when we heard that Heather had anything to do with it.”

Hine said that one of Auda Love’s three daughters from a previous marriage - she couldn’t recall which one - had called Tipton the night of the slayings after failing to reach her father.

“She was partying that night, music playing in the background,’’ and hung up as soon as she realized who the caller was, Hine said.

District Attorney Jackie Johnson said that jurors would have heard evidence of a strange relationship in the case.

Tipton was 36 and still living with her parents when she met Lanier, a friend of her teenage son, Johnson said.

John Johnson said Lanier and Beard were members of the Folk Nation gang, and Jackie Johnson said Tipton joined and took on a gang identity.

“She was known as a queen in the gang. Antonio was a king,’’ while Beard was a prince, she said.

Lanier is an African American and Tipton is white, and in Facebook postings she was referred to as Lanier’s “white queen,’’ Jackie Johnson said.

John Johnson laid out a chain of events, based on investigators’ findings that Tipton acknowledged in her plea, that ended with Auda and Anne Love dead:

On Oct. 11, 2012, Tipton and Lanier went to the Loves’ house where Anne Love had already written Tipton a $40 check for her birthday.

Subsequently, Anne Love was shot several times with her husband’s guns, including a shotgun that Tipton fired into her mother's back. When Auda Love arrived home from work, he asked Tipton if “everything was OK. She said, ‘No. Mama’s in the bathroom.’’’

As Auda Love ran toward the bathroom to check on his wife, Lanier fired on him.

“He had more than 15 wounds. Anne had eight or nine,’’ Johnson said.

It was payday for Auda Love and Lanier and Tipton took cash he had after cashing his check.

They drove to Jesup, picked up Beard and Tipton forged a $300 check on her mother’s account and cashed it. They also picked up Tipton’s son at school.

They then went to a pizza restaurant and checked into a motel. On the morning of Oct. 12, they took Tipton’s son to school and went to Waycross where Tipton had a doctor’s appointment.

At the same time, Auda Love’s boss at Carter Dredging Co. was looking for the man who never missed work at Rayonier’s Jesup mill.

“He went to work every day at 6 o’clock in the morning, got off at 4 and never missed a day of work,’’ John Johnson said.

With his phone calls unanswered, Auda Love’s supervisor went to the Loves’ house near Odum where he saw an open front door and belongings strewn about. He called police, and the officers went inside the house and found the Loves’ bodies.

When Tipton was contacted, Johnson said, “The first thing she tells people was Mama and Daddy are dead in the house.’’

But nobody in the public knew that because officers had used their phones - not radios that could be picked up by scanners - to report the deaths, Johnson said.

Johnson said he had planned to call about 30 witnesses for next week’s trial, but now that won’t be necessary.

Superior Court Judge Stephen D. Kelley accepted Tipton’s plea Thursday and sentenced her to two life sentences to be served concurrently, Jackie Johnson said.

John Johnson said she’ll spend at least 30 years in prison.

Beard and Lanier will be tried later this year, Jackie Johnson said.

All three defendants have been in jail since their arrests.

 

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405

 
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