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DeKalb district attorney seeks death penalty in murder case

ATLANTA (AP) - DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming has approved a death penalty prosecution - the first of her administration - against a man accused of bludgeoning his wife and 2-year-old twin sons to death with a hammer.

After calling police to his home late on the night of May 17, Clayton Jerrod Ellington, 29, shouted at officers that his family had been taken from him, his neighbors said. Police found the three bodies inside.

Ellington was charged the next day with murdering his 31-year-old wife, Berna Ellington, and their sons, Cameron and Christian. A grand jury this month indicted him on murder charges.

Georgia law was changed in 1993 to allow the possibility of a life sentence without parole. Since then, no DeKalb jury has approved a death sentence.

Keyes Fleming, who has been in office 2 1/2 years, said in a court filing last week that she would prosecute Ellington under provisions of Georgia law that allow death sentences for ''outrageously wanton or vile, horrible or inhuman'' murders and for multiple simultaneous murders.

''We determined this was a death penalty case after evaluating the facts and consulting with the family of the victims,'' Keyes Fleming said Monday in an e-mail. ''We evaluate each case individually to determine on its own merits if it rises to the level of a death penalty case.'' She added that DeKalb County has one prisoner on death row from a 1991 conviction.

Ellington's case, which was being handled by the DeKalb public defender's office, has been referred to the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender.

Records show Ellington has been held in the mental health unit of the DeKalb jail.