Petra E. Reese and James Lloyd face several charges, including felony murder, in the 2017 death of Karen Lee LaForge of Johns Creek. They appeared in court Thursday for a final plea hearing.
Photo: Roswell Police Department
Photo: Roswell Police Department

Duo charged in 2017 death of Johns Creek woman plead not guilty

A man and a woman pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges related to the 2017 death of a Johns Creek woman in a Fulton County court on Thursday.

Petra E. Reese, 56, of Grovetown, and James J. Lloyd, 32, of Alpharetta, both face murder charges. The two were arrested by Roswell police in March 2017 and charged in the death of Karen Lee LaForge. The 53-year-old mother of three was found dead in the front yard of a Roswell home on Jan. 17, 2017.

Reese and Lloyd did not appear in front of Judge Jane C. Barwick for a final plea hearing in Fulton County Superior Court, but lawyers representing them did. 

A spokesperson for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office confirmed the pleas. The next steps in the case are pending motions and then a trial. Dates have not been set for either.

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According to details revealed during a hearing in March 2017, LaForge was reportedly engaged to Petra Reese’s ex-husband, Joe. The Reese’s divorce was finalized in Sept. 2016 after 38 years of marriage.

Prosecutors at that hearing said Petra Reese convinced Lloyd to “rough up” LaForge and promised that he would be “paid handsomely” for his work.

According to testimony from Roswell detective Andrew Kirk, Lloyd pushed LaForge around “a little bit” and told her to stay away from Joe Reese. Lloyd told police that he started to walk away, but then LaForge jumped on him.

Kirk said that Lloyd then “choked” LaForge “until she went limp.” Lloyd told police he did not kill LaForge and said that Petra Reese went to the house on Tyson Circle and “finished the job” by hitting LaForge in the head with cement stones.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that LaForge died from strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.

Lloyd is being represented by Jennifer Lubinsky, a public defender, and Reese is being represented by Jonathan Oden. Oden said that he is seeking a plea agreement for Reese. Lubinsky did not immediately return a call from the AJC.

At the hearing, Lubinsky said she was missing discovery materials related to the case, specifically citing the results from DNA testing. Lauren Travis, a senior assistant DA for Fulton County, said she wouldn’t call details related to the DNA testing, “substantial.”

“We need to know how the laboratory came to its conclusions,” Lubinsky said.

Reese faces charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, stalking and burglary. Lloyd faces charges of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault.

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