Accused Murder Appears in Court

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Johnny Thomas was on the run, fleeing charges that he shot three people and one of them died. He faked his suicide but eventually turned himself in this past weekend. News 4 was there when he had his first appearance before a judge Monday.

The murder and assault charges against Johnny Thomas came out of an incident that happened in Headland. A place he wasn't supposed to be any where near.

His wife had taken out a restraining order against him; and this case, like many others illustrates how ineffective restraining orders can be.

Johnny Thomas' first appearance in court didn't take long. This past weekend, he surrendered to the Henry County sheriff's department.

He was wanted for the murder of Larry Corbitt, a family friend who'd been changing the locks on Thomas' estranged wife's home.

He also faces assault charges for allegedly shooting his mother-in-law and stepson who were in the house at the time.

While the shooting was going on, Thomas’s wife was getting a restraining order against him.

“Sometimes the problem with that is they are violated they have to come back to court for the contempt citation and sometimes that takes time and takes another court proceeding,” said Sheriff Lawton Armstrong.

Judge Lawson Little said, ”It's only as good as the person you're serving it on; if they're going to actually follow that order or not, sometimes they do sometimes they don't.”

This is why most victims are turning to protective orders, a revamped restraining order with stricter guidelines.

Thomas could be sentenced to life with the charges against him.

However, with Thomas' 12-year-old stepson still in critical condition, the assault charge could be upgraded if he takes a turn for the worse, a concern for Thomas' attorney, Charles Decker.

“If the person is able to recover and doesn't have difficulties, it'll probably stay an assault and not be a capital offense, but if the worse would happen we'd certainly be concerned,” said Decker.

Thomas now sits in the Henry County jail under a $500,000 bond.

If Thomas chooses to waive his preliminary hearing, the case will then go to the grand jury.

This year Houston County has issued 92 restraining orders. In all of last year, that number was 269. Henry County has issued 12 restraining orders this year. That's compared to a total of 36 last year.