Christine Strength, charged with concealing the death of another, tampering with evidence and making a false statement to Carrollton Police Department officers, pled guilty Monday and was sentenced to six years in jail, followed by nine years probation.
Strength was charged in connection with the 2010 murder of 21-year-old Marcelle Elliot and pled guilty to Superior Court Judge John Simpson. She was represented by public defender Julie Moore.
Court records indicate that sometime between July and August 2010, Strength failed to tell investigators about facts that her daughter, Farrah Lynn Strength, 31, of Carrollton, had given her about the murder.
The indictment reads that she “[failed] to inform officers that she had knowledge said Farrah Strength had murdered said Marcelle Elliott.”
In addition, the elder Strength is charged with concealing the victim’s credit cards in order to protect her daughter from suspicion, as well as making false statements to Sgt. Shannon Cantrell of the Carrollton Police Department, claiming she had no knowledge of Elliott’s murder or her daughter’s involvement.
In evidence supplied by the Carroll County District Attorney’s Office earlier this year, it is believed that Farrah Strength asked Marcelle Elliott to travel to Carrollton from her home in Cobb County under the pretext of picking up a book. When Elliott arrived, she was attacked and strangled, and her body was left in a swamp off Laurel Road.
It was several weeks before Elliott’s body was discovered, when Farrah Strength revealed its location to police. In the time that passed before Elliott’s body was located, Cantrell said, Christine Strength consistently denied any knowledge of the crime, which he said further impeded Elliott’s discovery. Christine Strength’s involvement was implicated upon the return of DNA evidence.
Strength made a statement to the court Monday, with the victim's family present.
"I am very sorry for what my daughter did," she said. "I cannot fathom what she did to those people. I know it sounds hollow, but I am very sorry."
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court at the time of the plea, the victim’s father, David Elliott, said that despite the two years since his daughter’s death, his family still struggles with her loss every day.
“Our lives are still irrevocably changed,” he wrote. “The shock, disbelief and horror of her murder have given way to a deep and painful loneliness. We realize more than ever that the wonderful gift of the child we brought into the world 23 years ago is forever gone – permanently taken from us by a senseless act of violence that still raises many questions.”
Strength was arrested after her daughter’s co-defendant, Joshua Keegan Clay, 32, of Carrollton entered a guilty plea to concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence in Superior Court. He received a 20-year sentence, with seven to serve in prison.
Farrah Strength was convicted of the murder last year, and is already serving a life-plus-10-year sentence for malice murder and false imprisonment.
Also in Simpson's court Monday:
• David Williams, charged with robbery, burglary and simple battery for an alleged home invasion near Roopville in January, plead guilty and escaped jail time, receiving five years probation and ordered to spend six months in a rehabilitation facility.
Mac Pilgrim, the lawyer for the co-defendant in the case, Steven Pointer, said Pointer's decision to plea or not will be influenced by Williams' plea.
“We don’t think this was a random home invasion,” said Jeff Richards of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. “Obviously, they knew there were prescription medications in the home.”
A neighbor told the sheriff’s office that between 3:30 and 4 a.m. on Jan. 3, the suspects knocked loudly on the victim’s door. Because it is believed the victim knew the suspects, he allowed the two into the house.
“After opening the door, Williams ran into the house knocking him down, and Pointer came in and held him down,” Richards said earlier this month. “[Williams] ran into a bedroom and stole money and prescription medication and then ran back out of the residence.”
Richards said the neighbor, who had heard the suspects knocking on the victim’s door, came outside after hearing the commotion, only to be struck and knocked to the ground by Pointer as he fled. The neighbor sustained a minor cut to his face but declined medical treatment.
Williams was arrested the following day, Wednesday, Jan. 4, after he was identified by the victim and warrants for his arrest were issued.
• The case of a man, his wife and his brother allegedly taking metal from a residence was continued until October because of counsel conflicts.
All three of the defendants in the case (Claude Campbell, Stephanie Campbell and Joseph Campbell) are charged with burglary and are represented by attorneys from the public defenders office.
Joseph Campbell is also charged with obstruction because of his attempted escape from officers following the incident in March.
A press release from Carroll County Sheriff's Office at the time of their arrest said Sgt. Keith Price was on routine patrol on Miller Academy Road when he noticed a man loading metal into the bed of a truck parked in front of a residence.
The release reported that upon confronting Claude Allen Campbell, 43, of Villa Rica, the officer was told that the suspect was merely “cleaning up,” though he was unable to say who gave him permission to do so.
“In the meantime, a female, Stephanie Campbell, 42, of Villa Rica, (Claude Campbell’s wife) came out of the residence carrying metal,” Richards reported in a press release. “A third person who was in the house, Joseph Lamar Campbell, 40, of Villa Rica (Claude Campbell’s brother), ran from the residence after his discovery. He was apprehended a short time later on Miller Academy Road.”