Eric Charles Stewart, of Calhoun, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for the murder of 54-year-old Donnie Charles in May, the newspaper reported. Charles had once offered Stewart a place to stay earlier this year, the GBI previously said.
Stewart was initially booked into the Gordon County jail May 1 on misdemeanor charges of shoplifting and obstruction. He was released about 9:30 p.m. May 16 after a judge sentenced him to serve two years on probation, according to Gordon County records.
The next morning, Charles’ family found his body outside his Murray County home, the GBI said. Soon after, a campsite was found nearby Charles’ home off Sexton Road, and several items, including some belonging to Charles, were found there covered in blood.
Stewart was arrested about 11:15 a.m. for Charles’ homicide, meaning he spent less than 14 hours outside of jail before returning.
Joe Montgomery, the GBI special agent in charge, said Charles was known among his Resaca community for his generosity.
“Mr. Charles didn’t have a lot of money, but Mr. Charles was one of those people that what little he had, he gave to the community,” Montgomery previously said. A motive for the homicide was never provided by the GBI.
According to the indictment obtained by the Daily-Citizen, Steward killed Charles “by repeatedly striking Donnie Charles in the head with a blunt object ...”
District Attorney Bert Poston said he accepted Stewart’s guilty plea for malice murder to prevent Charles’ family from enduring the stress of a trial, the Daily-Citizen reported. Stewart will be eligible for parole in 30 years, but Poston said it’s rare for those convicted of murder to receive parole.
Stewart’s public defense attorney, Cat Pyne, said her client “eagerly accepted” the plea deal, the newspaper reported.
Zachary Hansen, a Georgia native, covers economic development and commercial real estate for the AJC. He's been with the newspaper since 2018 and enjoys diving into complex stories that affect people's lives.