Valdosta Daily Times

September 6, 2013

Ballistics test ties weapon to murder

Charge filed in Baytree woman’s death

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Ballistics tests on a gun taken during an arrest in an obstruction and firearm case led to murder charges being filed Thursday in the August shooting death of a Valdosta woman, according to the Valdosta Police Department.

Jerry Gay, 20, of Valdosta is charged with murder in connection with the Aug. 12 shooting death of Tawnya Kinslow, 42, who was found dead in her 800 block Baytree Road residence.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said the suspect’s name was mentioned early during the Kinslow murder investigation. Gay and Kinslow knew one another, the chief said.

Yet, it took an arrest in another incident that led to Gay facing murder charges.

On Aug. 24, Valdosta police officers responded to a call regarding a dispute where one person was armed with a gun. As officers arrived, a suspect fled the scene on foot.

“After a short foot pursuit, the officers caught Gay and found a handgun in his possession,” according to the VPD.

Gay was arrested and charged with pointing a gun at another, obstruction of officers, and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, according to police reports.

Since Gay’s name had been mentioned during the murder investigation, Valdosta police investigators requested ballistics tests on the gun taken during his arrest. The Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Crime Lab tested the gun.

“Ballistics positively identified that gun as the weapon used to kill the victim,” the police chief said.

Gay was still in the Lowndes County Jail on the earlier charges Thursday morning when the murder charge was filed. The case is still under investigation and additional charges may be filed.

Childress praised his patrol officers and investigators for the arrest. He also praised the regional crime lab and past SPLOST measures that funded it.

“I hope folks understand the importance of the SPLOST vote,” Childress said. “A lot of funding for the lab came from SPLOST funds.”

He said having the regional crime lab made it possible for a speedy return on the ballistics tests performed on the handgun. With budget cuts and being overwhelmed by cases throughout Georgia, the State Crime Lab would have likely taken longer to provide testing and results.

Childress said he has enacted a 23-day rule with the Crime Lab where he wants results for drug tests, fingerprint analysis, ballistics and forensics within 23 calendar days. This expectation builds upon a policy enacted by a former police chief for turning over all case files to prosecutors within 23 days, Childress said.

Anyone having any further information regarding this crime or any other crime is urged to contact the Valdosta Police Department at 229-293-3145 or can remain anonymous at 229-293-3091.