Murder, sexual exploitation trials start up this week

LAWRENCEVILLE - The murder trial for Keith Orlando Owens Jr., accused of killing a Dacula teen in 2007, is scheduled to begin Monday.

Owens' participation in the homicide is unclear, but authorities initially said they believed he "took part in gunfire" directed at 19-year-old Jimmy Lee West in a yard on Hill Circle in Dacula.

Two men - Marco Danyel Mcilwain and Joseph Andrew Smith - have been convicted in the incident. A jury found Mcilwain guilty of felony murder in March 2008; He was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. Joseph Andrew Smith pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Smith may be called to testify in Owens' trial. Jail records show Smith was moved from Calhoun State Prison to the Gwinnett County Jail, where he is being held for court.

Investigators said the four men knew each other.

Assistant District Attorney Nigel Lush will try this case in front of Superior Court Judge Michael Clark.

Also scheduled for next week is a hearing for a Lilburn man accused of swapping nude photos with a child and having sexually charged Internet conversations with her.

Thomas Hartridge Bacot, 32, is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor and violating the Computer Pornography Act.

Police said he possessed 10 sexually explicit pictures of the girl, whose age is unknown. Authorities said Bacot knew the girl was a minor.

The Gwinnett Daily Post does not identify victims of sex crimes.

Bacot also, according to reports, e-mailed the girl a picture of his genitals.

Bacot was released on bond on June 20, a day after being arrested. Jail records show he was on bond in Forsyth County for similar charges.

The hearing will be in front of Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor.