Man pleads not guilty to killing 2 teens behind Roswell Publix

Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing two teenagers behind a Roswell Publix. (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

Combined ShapeCaption
Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, pleaded not guilty Thursday to killing two teenagers behind a Roswell Publix. (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

He was calmer this time and appeared focused, far different from how he was at his first court appearance three months ago. Jeffrey Hazelwood didn't shake at all as he was asked for his plea Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court.

“Not guilty,” he replied.

Hazelwood was in and out of the courtroom in a matter of minutes for the arraignment, which came less than two weeks after he was indicted in the shooting deaths of two teenagers behind a Roswell Publix.

Hazelwood, 20, is accused of killing Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis, both 17, in the early-morning hours of Aug. 1 — heinous crimes that shocked the community and remain unexplained.

Around 3 a.m., the teenagers, both set to start their senior year of high school, were in the back of Henderson’s SUV when Hazelwood spotted the pair, he later told Roswell detectives. Then, Hazelwood approached the SUV with a gun, according to police. He shot and killed Davis before allegedly assaulting Henderson and shooting her to death, police said.

After she was killed, Henderson's body was posed in a sexually suggestive position, and Davis was found with his arms stretched out on each side, according to their autopsy reports.

Henderson and Davis were both popular students involved in school activities. The morning the two were found dead, Davis was supposed to start his senior year at River Ridge High School, where he played lacrosse. Henderson, who loved to sing and had performed with the Roswell High School color guard, was to start 12th grade the following week. Neither seemed to have any connection to the long-haired man with a history of mental health disorders.

Through surveillance footage and SUV ownership records, investigators identified Hazelwood as the lone suspect in the killings. Within 48 hours, he was arrested. Hazelwood described to detectives his actions, which also included stealing a debit card and jumper cables after killing the teens. But he never offered a motive, according to police.

Investigators found dark writings from Hazelwood, but declined to release the contents. He also had disturbing messages on his Instagram account. One, a copy of a poster, said, “Eventually, the most kind hearted person will grow cold. That’s when you know they’ve been pushed too far.”

In October, a grand jury indicted Hazelwood on 15 counts, including charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, aggravated sexual battery, financial transaction card theft, identify fraud, theft by taking, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

It was not known Thursday whether Hazelwood would face the death penalty if convicted of killing the teens. But his case has been transferred to the Georgia Capital Defenders office, which typically handles death penalty cases. Attorney Brad Gardner stood beside Hazelwood during Thursday morning’s hearing and will represent him.

Relatives of both Henderson and Davis were in court Thursday, as were Hazelwood’s grandparents. But Hazelwood didn’t appear to make eye contact with anyone as he was led in and out of the courtroom. Security was tighter than normal outside Judge Shawn LaGrua’s courtroom, where deputies collected all electronic devices and screen items being carried.

Hazelwood is being held at the Fulton County jail without bond. A status hearing for his case is scheduled for Dec. 15 in LaGrua’s courtroom.