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Strangled woman's family calls out suspect

LAWRENCEVILLE — Tracey Quinn tried to keep calm Thursday morning in Gwinnett Magistrate Court, though she says the man accused of strangling her mother and abandoning the body in an Oldsmobile’s trunk, Paul Sherman, smirked as his probable cause hearing unfolded.

Emotions overtook Quinn as deputies led Sherman back to jail without bond, his murder charges bound to Superior Court. The suspect’s mother, seated next to his pastor, was handy.

“He killed my mother,” Quinn scalded the woman from the gallery, visibly enraged. “He killed her.”

Deputies intervened, squelching the fireworks, and the family members were hugging in the hallway moments later, discussing the long road toward forgiveness.

“I know at some point I’ve got to forgive,” Quinn told the Daily Post. “It’s a senseless crime. At some point in time, I’m hoping to make this a positive” by mentoring youth about drugs, she said.

Drugs — and especially crack cocaine — played a major role in 59-year-old Joanne Kent’s death, according to testimony.

A known drug addict, Sherman, 45, was in the throes of a crack binge when he told a friend he’d strangled Kent because “she was trying to take my pills,” testified Gwinnett police Detective Dennis Hennelly, citing witness statements.

Sherman made desperate pleas for money to his pastor, who refused. Before detectives caught up with him a day after the Aug. 9 discovery, Sherman told friends and his wife he needed to skip town and go away for a long time, Hennelly testified.

Sherman allegedly parked the car in the Bona Road backyard of a woman he knew, then fled when police tried to question him about loitering there. Police found a crack pipe near the car and, while taking inventory for impound, stumbled upon Kent’s body, wrapped in a purple exercise mat, Hennelly said.

An autopsy showed Kent had been strangled manually, he said.

Sherman is charged with murder, concealing the death of another, obstruction and loitering. Judge Bob Mitchum dismissed a charge of distributing cocaine.

“That may be the least of his troubles,” the judge said.

Sherman told interrogators he’d been sexually involved with Kent that day but denied killing her. Police found a pair of women’s shoes and sunglasses in a wooded spot on Buford’s Maddox Road where Sherman said they’d had a rendezvous hours prior. They also found Sherman’s prints on the 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass’ trunk, Hennelly said.

Neither Quinn nor the victim’s other daughter, Kelly Lybrand, would speculate as to how their mother got mixed up with Sherman. A former nurse, Kent earned a living caring for the elderly, and the Oldsmobile belonged to her current client, her daughters said.

“She’s just a kind person. She didn’t deserve it,” Lybrand said. “She was thrown in the trunk like yesterday’s trash.”