Attorneys for suspects in Kirkwood bike trail murder question lack of evidence

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt January 21, 2014
James Arnold, father of murder victim X'Avier Arnold, stands outside of DeKalb Magistrate Court after a preliminary hearing for the two men accused of murdering his son. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

James Arnold, father of murder victim X’Avier Arnold, stands outside of DeKalb County Magistrate Court after a preliminary hearing for the two men accused of murdering his son. Photo by: Dan Whisenhunt

Atlanta Police Investigator Kevin Otts hunched over the table in front of the judge’s bench and frowned as he listed to a defense attorney dissect his theory about the Dec. 26 murder of X’avier Arnold.

Attorney Tom Clegg, representing Qutravius Palmer, questioned Otts’ testimony during a preliminary hearing on Jan. 21 at DeKalb County Magistrate Court. Clegg asked questions about the timeline of the investigation. He questioned the witness statements. He questioned where Arnold was when he was shot. He went through the alleged confrontation, blow by blow.

Otts said Arnold’s two friends told investigators that on Dec. 26 they were walking a bike trail near Pullman Yard when they noticed two suspects following them. When they turned to confront the suspects, one of them pulled out a gun. Arnold, a U.S. Army reservist, fought back. Witnesses told police that Palmer put Arnold in a headlock.

During the struggle, police allege a 14-year-old boy that was with Palmer shot Arnold in the back of the head, fatally wounding him.

Clegg picked over the particulars of the alleged struggle between Arnold and Palmer.

“Mr. Arnold has his back turned to the perpetrator?”

Otts’ voice rose as he defended the witness statements.

“Just because my back’s turned to you, it doesn’t mean you’re not whipping my butt, you know what I’m saying,” Otts answered.

The hearing revealed a lack of physical evidence connecting Palmer and the 14-year-old defendant to the crime.  Both suspects turned themselves in at the urging of their parents. Neither of the suspects admitted guilt, though Otts said Palmer asked police to tell Arnold’s family that he was sorry for what happened to their son. Police did not recover a murder weapon. Arnold’s friends could’t identify Palmer in a lineup.

“They mostly focused on the person with the gun,” Otts said.

The case rests primarily on the testimony of an anonymous female witness, who told police she overheard the two suspects discussing the murder. Police also say they have phone records putting the suspects in the approximate location of the murder, witness descriptions of the suspects’ clothing and video surveillance of the suspects wearing those clothes on the night of the murder.

The only items reported stolen were a wallet and an iPhone belonging to Arnold’s friends.

The judge found enough cause to send the case to state Superior Court. After the hearing, the victim’s father, James Arnold, said he was hopeful there would be justice for his son and that senseless acts of violence would stop.

Did the lack of physical evidence in the case concern him?

“It does,” James Arnold said. “Only because I’ve seen things fall through the cracks before. But let this be known. My faith in God is bigger than my faith in man, and I know that this going to turn out the way God intends it to turn out.”

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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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