Sentencing Hearing for Jomekia Pope Under Way
The man who admits to the 2005 burning death of his girlfriend was in a Bibb County courtroom Monday for his sentencing hearing.
Jomekia Pope pleaded guilty to the crime in order to avoid the death penalty and listened to witness testimony of the night of August 7, 2005.
"She raised her arm and said he set me on fire," said Ward Vanderhauf.
Vanderhauf lived a few houses down from Latosha Taylor, and was approached by her moments after Pope allegedly doused her with gasoline and eventually lit her on fire.
He (Vanderhauf) compared Taylor's burned body to a leopard, with her hair matted to her head. A trauma doctor at the Medical Center at the time said Taylor had burns on 90 percent of her body.
"This is the worst burn patient that I have taken care of in almost 20 years."
Pope said it was Taylor who had a cup of gasoline and an open flame, claiming she rushed at him, and she self-ignited. But a Burn Pattern Specialist with the Georgia Insurance and Fire Prevention office says that story doesn't add up.
"The way that the burn patterns are on the victim, it's indicative that she was laying on her side in the bed at the time she was doused with gasoline."
Taylor's family sat in the courtroom sobbing during graphic testimonies, some could bare to lesson, covering their ears. Taylor's stepfather, Harold Banks pleaded with the judge to give Pope the harshest punishment possible.
"I'm begging you to please don't let this happen to someone else's child," said Banks. "Because words can't even describe what we been through. These last seven years have been seven years of hell."
Pope is charged with one count of Malice Murder, one count of felony murder, and one county of arson. He can rescind his guilty plea at anytime before his sentence is delivered.
The defense is set to bring in witnesses Tuesday.