Former officer pleads guilty in friend's drowning at Lake Allatoona

A former Cobb County police officer has admitted to being responsible for the drowning death of a fellow officer on Lake Allatoona.

Kenneth Reda, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second degree homicide by vessel, tampering with evidence, violating the oath of a police officer and three counts of making false statements, according to documents filed in Cherokee County Superior Court.

Reda could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison, Garry Moss, the Cherokee County district attorney, told the AJC. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18.

Reda and a fellow Cobb police SWAT team member, 35-year-old Brent Stephens, and Shelly Powell were returning from dinner at a lakeside restaurant the night of April 22 when their boat struck a pylon in the water, investigators have said. Stephens, of Paulding County, was thrown overboard and his body was found in the water the following afternoon.

Although Stephens fell off the boat around 9 p.m., 911 records show Reda waited about 90 minutes before reporting the incident. Reda and Powell, who at the time was a neighbor, also removed beer bottles from the fishing boat before he took Powell back to the shore, investigators said.

Reda initially told police Stephens was a daredevil and had jumped off the boat, and that the two men were the only ones on board. When questioned, Powell first denied she was on the boat but later changed her story.

“I’m out here on Lake Allatoona. I have a friend I think jumped off my boat and I have no idea where he is,” Reda said on the 911 tape, which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think he jumped off or whatever the case. I don’t know if he fell off the boat. … I turned around and started looking for him right away. I found his flip-flops, and I have not found him.”

Days later, Reda and Powell were both charged with making false statements and obstruction, allegedly lying about who was on the boat and the circumstances around the accident. Both were later released from the Cherokee County jail on $11,180 bond.

The state department of natural resources determined that alcohol was a factor in the incident.

Following his arrest, Reda was suspended without pay from his job on the police force. He resigned May 7.

Charges are still pending against Powell, Moss said. A court date has not been set.