Jury chosen, seated in Upatoi triple murder trial

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) - Sixteen people have now been officially chosen to fill the jury box in Judge Gil McBride's courtroom and serve for the rest of the Upatoi triple murder trial. It's been a long week of negotiation, questioning, and plea agreements to make it to this point.

The 12 jurors and their four alternates were selected from the 50 qualified potential jurors who returned to court Friday morning for the announcement. The prosecution and defense agreed on nine men and seven women - with seven of those jurors being African-American and nine Caucasian.

All the potential jurors went through four days of rigorous questioning in order to establish their impartiality towards the case of Upatoi grandmother, 54-year-old Gloria Short, her son 17-year-old Caleb Short and 10-year-old granddaughter Gianna Lindsey. All three were found stabbed and beaten to death inside Gloria's home back on January 4, 2016.

Three suspects were arrested in the case, 21-year-old Raheam Gibson, 19-year-old Jervarceay Tapley, and 17-year-old Rufus Burks. Each was indicted with 10 different charges from malice murder to burglary, but after this week's courtroom developments, only one will go to trial.

Gibson will be one of the first 10 witnesses for the prosecution on Monday. He will testify against Burks as part of a plea deal he negotiated on the first day of questioning, January 29.

Tapley was also set to plead guilty, but without a deal on the first day of questioning. However, he suddenly changed his mind on the stand, telling Judge McBride he felt he had "no choice" but to plead guilty based on the evidence the state had against him.

Tapley's lawyer says his client had time to think about the victims' family overnight and accept the gravity of the crime. Tuesday, he again switched his plea to accept three counts of malice murder.

"I do know he's a young kid and this is an all around bad situation," says Tapley's defense attorney Shevon Thomas. "He was afforded the opportunity to make a decision on his own, provided all relevant information to him, and he made a decision. He entered a plea."

"He did not want to put the family through a trial."

Family members of Gloria, Caleb and Gianna tell News 3 they were hurt when Tapley changed his plea, but relieved when he ultimately accepted responsibility. One woman tells News 3's Mikhaela Singleton Tapley had been a friend of the family since he was 10 years old.

"I'll always see him like that, as that kid that [Gloria] loved and Caleb loved, he was like part of the family. I'll still never understand how it all came to this," she says.

Tapley will be sentenced March 22 after a pre-sentencing investigation.

With only one defendant left, Burks' attorney Jennifer Curry motioned for a change of venue and to start the jury selection process over again. Judge McBride denied her requests.

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