The Glynn County, Georgia Grand Jury has returned a 13-count indictment against the four arrested last week in Brunswick in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Christopher Barrios, Jr.
George Edenfield, 32 and registered child molester, his father David and lovely mother Peggy were each indicted for murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, enticing a child for indecent purposes, false imprisonment, and child molestation. Each of the three, and their family friend Donald Dale were also charged with concealing the death of a person and tampering with evidence.
George and his father David were also indicted for aggravated child molestation. You read that correctly: George’s father is charged with aggravated molestation of young Christopher, too. The story gets worse: The warrant documentation states that George and David sodomized this child, then forced him to perform oral sex on each of them…all the while Peggy Edenfield watched and masterbated.
I am stunned and completely sickened by the depravity, the evilness of this entire “family.” I’ve said it before, allow me to again: Monsters walk among us.
Would it surprise you to know that David Edenfield, George’s 58-year-old father, is also a convicted sex offender? He was convicted of sexually assaulting his own daughter, for which he served 10 years of regular probation.
George Edenfield was a train wreck searching for loosened rails to happen. And he found those loose rails in the Glynn County Superior Courts and Christopher Barrios, Jr. became his latest victim, but certainly not his first.
New information coming forth about Edenfield and his family and friend is painting a grim picture of Georgia law and the Glynn County courts that allowed Edenfield, et al, to filter through wide cracks in their floor and commit his favorite crime again.
George Edenfield enjoys preying upon and molesting young boys, and has a track record to prove it. And he has an entire family who echo his joy found in terrorizing children.
According to national sex offender registry records and court documents, George was convicted in June, 1997 for molesting two young brothers. These children, ages 9 and 7, were Edenfield’s next door neighbors. Edenfield’s residence was at 2122 Union Street in downtown Brunswick, where the offenses occurred.
In the 1997 child molestation case, Edenfield was accused of forcibly rubbing his clothed body “in a sexual manner” against the two boys repeatedly. The boys were fully clothed during Edenfield’s rub-ups, but no less traumatized by being held down so Edenfield could masterbate upon them. The boys’ parents refused to allow the boys to testify and were Hell-bent upon moving out of town. And, with no witnesses, prosecutors effected a plea agreement with Edenfield, in which they traded what could have been a 40-year maximum sentence in prison for ten years probation, a $1,000 fine, the requirement to undergo counseling and to remain duly registered with the county as a sex offender. As a registered sex offender, in accordance with Georgia statutes, Edenfield was prohibited from residing closer than 1,000 feet to schools, playgrounds, parks and other places that attract children, and not allowed any contact at all with minors without supervision.
To newly-elected District Attorney Stephen Kelly, any conviction and sentence was better than none at all.
Living next door to a child, however, is and was not precluded in Georgia or anywhere else in the US. So Edenfield went home and resumed his life, as if nothing had ever happened.
Flash forward nine years to last August when authorities finally got around to checking to see what Edenfield was up to. They discovered that Edenfield was still residing at 2122 Union Street and said address was right across the street from Brunswick’s Orange Park and it’s playground very popular for neighborhood children. Police ordered Edenfield to move within 10 days, but Edenfield did not. So they arrested him for failure to comply.
In September, Edenfield was indicted by the Glynn County Grand Jury under a brand new charge for violating his restrictions as a registered sex offender and living within 1,000 feet of a public park.
At some point just prior to Edenfield’s arrest on October 9 to be arraigned for this new charge, he moved with his parents to 121 Horseshoe Lane in the Canal Mobile Home Park, directly across from Christopher’s grandmother’s trailer and just up the street from Christopher’s own trailer home.
Edenfield appeared in court on March 5 to face the indictment – three days before Christopher’s disappearance – and pleaded guilty in another negotiated plea agreement. Glynn County ADA Gregory Perry argued before Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett for another 10 years probation, but this time with a year of strict supervision. In the end, Edenfield walked away with another 10-year probation under the same conditions as his first one in 1997. Oh, yeah. He also had to sign a contract promising he would not live closer than 1,000 feet from public places where children tend to gather…like schools, parks, playgrounds.
Charles Taylor, who was Edenfield’s assigned public defender on March 5, said that his client had remained in compliance with the conditions of his first conviction in 1997. As such, it is presumed that Edenfield will comply with his new probationary sentence, with no evidence to support that he would do otherwise.
Really? At what point does living across the street from a public playground for nine years in full defiance of sex offender regulations constitute compliance? Counselor, there is no excuse, regardless of how overburdened you may personally be, for overlooking this fact. Did you spend more than 15 minutes reviewing Edenfield’s case before defending him in court, moreover making that absurd statement? I certainly hope not.
At first note of details I will provide below, I was beginning to believe this was the worst example of police work I have ever heard of. But I have soundly changed my mind. Instead of bungling an investigation by dragging out the process, police have probably safeguarded well the case against the Edenfields and Donald Dale. They kept their mouths shut during the investigation, and went by the absolute book in collecting and protecting the evidence and statements they obtained. It will be through their conscientious efforts and patience that the Edenfields and pal Donald Dale are met with any semblance of justice here.
Okay. Back to it.
So Edenfield returns to the bosom of his loving family. On Friday, March 8, Christopher Barrios is last seen at 6:15 p.m. at the playground in his mobile home park. His disappearance was reported to police shortly after 8:00 p.m. that evening by his father, and police immediately began their investigation.
In their initial search of the area, police found a “Star Wars” extendable light saber toy in the yard of the Edenfield’s trailer at 121 Horseshoe Lane at around 9:00 p.m.. So they went up to the trailer door, knocked, and went inside to chat with the Edenfields.
On that evening, according to search warrant documents presented later to the court and other investigative reports, George Edenfield confessed to police that he had killed Christopher. A few days later, after being arrested on a violation of his “new” probation, he further told police he had choked the child.
According to Investigator William Daras, who interviewed the Edenfields that night, George told him he saw Christopher get off of his school bus around 2:45 p.m.on Friday, March 8, and watched Christopher walk home. Per Daras, George Edenfield stated the devil told him to kill Christopher. Later that evening, George found Christopher heading home from the playground area and “invited” the child inside his trailer to play video games, and Christopher happily went. Both David Edenfield and Peggy Edenfield were home in the trailer when Christopher arrived with George. George, by the way, had a healthy collection of games in his room. So they played a while…until the horrors began.
Despite providing a legally-proper confession to police that night and refusing to tell police where the body was located for fear of being sent to prison, George Edenfield was not arrested that night. No one was.
Not until nearly 5:00 p.m. the next day, Saturday, March 9 – nearly 23 hours since Christopher was last seen – was George arrested. And his arrest was based partly on his confession, but specifically for admitting that he had been in the unsupervised company of a minor child, a direct violation of his sex offender regulations. And according to his arrest warrant, that minor child was Christopher.
Police and a host of some 300 volunteer searchers (who had no idea of this confession) searched the area. They searched on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from dawn to dusk. Still no one was arrested, not even the man who confessed to the crime.
Finally, on Tuesday, March 12, Brunswick Police Chief Matt Doering called the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and requested they issue a “Levi’s Call”, which is a statewide alert akin to the national Amber Alert. And it was done. I can only surmise the Levi’s Call was not issued early because police secretly believed Christopher was already dead, but went ahead with the issuance nonetheless.
Later that day, Peggy Edenfield welcomed police and two fellows from the Atlanta National Gas Co. into her trailer to search for methane gas, which is an obviously detected byproduct of decomposing bodies. And their detectors found methane in substantial levels.
Police decided to have another chat with Peggy. This time, she told police she witnessed her son (George) and husband (David) both choking young Christopher until he was dead. She further admitted to Sgt. Keith Stalvey that George had tried to remove any of his fingerprints from Christopher’s neck by cleaning him up using “a pot of water and some soap” and then wrapping Christopher’s body in plastic trash bags.
It was at this point police executed an “emergency search” of the Edenfield trailer and removed one bag of unknown evidence and seized a shovel.
In one of four separate series of statements made a part of a formal search warrant to come later, Peggy made the statement that she watched her son (George) and husband (David) use clothing to wipe semen off of their bodies. In one of those four statements, Peggy made a statement to another police officer that she had been the one to clean Christopher’s neck in an attempt to remove all fingerprints.
Peggy then sent police on a wild goose chase in several different locations where she insisted Christopher’s body would be found. Her stories changed more frequently than models change clothes at Fashion Week in Milan. And her husband David offered equally conflicting information about where Christopher would be found, and so did Donald Dale.
Peggy was arrested that day, and her husband, David, on the next day, March 13, each on charges of obstruction of justice, making false claims to police, and for concealing a death. Family pal Donald Dale was arrested very shortly after David Edenfield and charged with the same charges as Peggy and David.
The searches continued. And by a stroke of good fortune, a Georgia park ranger found Christopher’s body on Thursday, March 15, some two miles from his home, contained within a black plastic trash bag, and located some 15 feet off of the road. The discovery was not as the result of any statement made by any of the four in jail, but by police finally widening the search area beyond what they had combed repeatedly.
FINALLY, on Friday, March 16, Investigator Daras went before the Glynn County Magistrate Court and requested a formal search warrant on the Edenfield’s trailer and included the above-referenced information and statements in his documentation of same. Judge Tim Barton granted a search warrant for the Edenfield home, as well as to collect clothing worn by George, David, Peggy and Donald when they were arrested.
That search warrant and unknown evidence collected in addition to that which was seized earlier paved the way for the Grand Jury to rule in less than two days of testimonies.
Today, George, David, Peggy and Donald were indicted, and young Christopher’s body was laid to rest. When George, David and Peggy come to trial, they will face the death penalty for the murder charge against them.
This case shows a whole wealth of wrong and plenty of blame to be shared.
We have a sick family, a father who molested his own daughter, his son who molested two known and possible more boys, both father and son who are accused of molesting and together choking Christopher and causing his death, a mother who is accused of participating in this latest of her son’s and husband’s evil escapades, and a “friend” who did his best to cover up Christopher’s death by throwing him away in a trash bag.
On the authoritative side is a jail that has been 100+ inmates over its capacity for years, a court system drowning in criminal caseloads for years, police and social services without enough manpower and resources to keep track of their criminals released back to the community, a legislature without the balls to give teeth and real mandatory punishments to child abusers, and people receiving probation right and left for egregious crimes because there is no more room in the Inn.
Through no wrongdoing of their own, the courts have clearly failed Christopher Barrios’ family and an innocent child was tortured and killed. The ones truly at fault here is the State of Georgia.
Georgia’s Legislature does not have (and is just now “considering” adopting) any form of Jessica’s Law that provides mandatory sentences for sex offenders, especially repeated offenders like George and his father. Last year, the state enacted a somewhat stronger and highly confusing statute that prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 of a school bus stop. The confusion came when high courts ruled a “school bus stop” is subjective and nebulous and, as such, there is no place in Georgia where a sex offender could actually reside and not be close to one. Said Georgia Senator Eric Johnson, president pro tempore of the Senate, “It may make it difficult for a sexual predator to find a place to live, and I don’t think we make any apologies about that.”
Atlanta’s Southern Center for Human rights disagreed and sued the state and stopped the new restrictions from taking place last July. When three of the 150+ Georgia counties acted to declared official bus stops to correct the subjective definition, US District Judge Clarence Cooper blocked all counties from evicting any sex offenders while this litigation was pending. It still is.
And that is how George Edenfield and, indeed, Christopher’s own father (regardless of the mitigation involved in his own conviction) were allowed to live in the trailer park to begin with, and how George was able to watch children, including Christopher, get on and off their school bus mere yards from his own front door every day.
Georgia is also one of a handful of states that DO NOT use GPS tracking devices to keep track of their criminals. No wonder George was able to live 9 years across from a park in full violation of his court-ordered restrictions!
Some facts that should have families in Brunswick shaking in their boots is that Brunswick, with a 2006 population estimate of 20,000 people has 116 registered sex offenders on their rolls. Okay. In real life, we understand that not all of these “sex offenders” are predatorial child molestors. But in the Brunswick sex offender registry roles, ALL but 9 are registered as child molestors. People, that percentage of registered sex felons — about one out of every 170 people — is HUGE!
There are three registered sex offenders living is this one mobile home park where Christopher lived. One is George Edenfield, and another is Christopher’s father, who was convicted of statutory rape in April of 1997. The third is not George’s father, David Edenfield, whose crime of molesting his daughter was committed prior to registry laws. One can only wonder, with Georgia’s unusual concentration of registered offenders per capita, how many other convicted child molestors are present who, like David Edenfield, were convicted of their crimes before the registry system was created.
In looking for similar concentrations of similar felons in similar towns across the region, I have yet to find any numbers as high as those in Brunswick, but some come close. In Natchez, Mississippi, with a near identical population and in another state with no strict sentencing or probation regulations, has 99 registries, or one out of every 190 people.. Kankakee, Illinois, with a 30,000 population and in another lax state, shows 134 registrants, or one sex offender for every 225 people. Slidell, Louisiana, a town with a slightly larger population of about 27,000 to Brunswick’s 20,000 – in another state WITHOUT a Jessica’s Law – there are 96 registered sex offenders, or one out of every 280 people.
Allow me to offer some contrasts:
The small East Texas town of Palestine has a population of 20,000 and 66 registered sex offenders. That’s one sex offender for every 300 people. In McKinney, Texas north of Dallas, their population has basically doubled in the last seven years to a present 105,000 people. McKinney has 75 registered sex offenders living within their city limits, or one out of every 1,400 people. Tyler, Texas with a population of 100,000 has 100 sex offenders, or one out of every 1,000 people. In the vast Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas that encompasses eight separate zip codes, a 2006 population of 250,000 and ranked as the ninth largest city in Texas, there are 99 registered sex offenders. That’s one sex offender for every 2500+ people living there. In Miami-Dade County in Florida, the eighth most populated county in the US with over 2,500,000 residents, has 2048 registered sex offenders. That’s one sex offender for every 1,220 people living in the county.
In my mind, I can think of no greater example, by contrast above, of the effectiveness of Jessica’s Law and its facsimiles as a deterrence. And there are a lot of other reason, such as education for one, incorporated with these laws that speak to their effectiveness as well.
Chid abusers, molesters and predators don’t like living in states that punish them soundly and keep close track of them. Of course, that doesn’t stop new ones from committing crimes. Take Valerie Lopez of San Antonio as a prime example. But when their time is done, they tend to get the heck away from Texas and Florida and Minnesota as quickly as they can. They go to Georgia and Alabama and Louisiana and Colorado and Illinois and other states where they can hide with impugnity.
Georgia, it’s time for you to get off your royal laurels and do something concrete to protect your children from predators! Might I recommend that you begin with your local municipalities and state legislators???
Wake up, folks! America’s families are literally involved in a life-and-death battle to secure the safety of our children from abuse, torture and murder. So go do something about it, wherever you are!
A harrowing account from Channel 4 in Jacksonville, FL: http://www.news4jax.com/news4georgia/11321257/detail.html
PS: I would like to thank “MCA”, a commentor to this post, who very kindly and accurately corrected my own errors in citing statistics. In going back to the time when I wrote this, I did not double-check my searche within the US DOJ Sex Offender Registry against local state registries. As such, I was incorrect in my numbers for Tyler and Plano, Texas and Miami-Dade county. Thanks to this person’s care in pointing out my errors, I have made the appropriate corrections.
There is nothing I despise more than people spouting out numbers and “facts” that are incorrect. Through my own haste and questionable intelligence in the moment, I’ll be kicking myself between laundry loads. And I’ll not be repeating THAT particular error again.
Thank you, MCA. Much appreciated.