Family members of the late Eva Richards looked to the Columbus City Council and Municipal Judge Mark Amos on Tuesday to explain what they considered a low bond for her alleged killer.
Amos set a $7,500 bond for 37-year-old Terrance Vontrell McBride on April 13, just three days after he reportedly struck 50-year-old Richards with his vehicle as she was walking along Seventh Avenue North. Witnesses said McBride exited his vehicle after the collision, looked at Richards, then got back into the vehicle and drove away. McBride is charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death.
McBride bonded out of the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on the same day as his bond hearing.
On Tuesday, Richards’ family members, led by her sister Rosean Roberts and daughter Sophia Wynn, claimed McBride’s bond was not enough and demanded Amos explain his decision.
In a scene that unfolded over nearly 20 minutes before the crowd gathered for the city council meeting, Amos said he was legally obligated to set a low bond based on the charge and other factors presented at the bond hearing.
“It’s a tragedy, no question about it,” Amos told the family members. “There’s no bond I could set that would be high enough to make up for the loss of (Richards’) life. This bond is to ensure he will show up to court. You may be taking my setting the bond as condoning what happened, and it’s not… He is charged with a crime that if (Richards) had not died or been seriously injured, it would have been a misdemeanor, and I don’t control the charges either.”
Amos told the family members that police officers who testified at McBride’s hearing said the suspect was not a flight risk and wasn’t an imminent threat to the public, which he said obligated him to set a low bond. He also noted McBride was a lifelong Columbus resident and ties to the community was another element a judge must consider when setting a bond.
Amos said he also had to consider McBride innocent until proven guilty.
Roberts argued that the offense, coupled with McBride’s criminal history, made the suspect a threat.
“This man ran my sister down, got out of the car and looked at her, then drove off,” she said. “And you don’t think he’s a risk to anyone else?”
McBride has served prison time for a 2001 sale of cocaine conviction, as well as for a probation revocation from a 1999 possession of cocaine conviction. He’s also recorded several misdemeanor offenses in Municipal Court.
Family members also questioned the charge against McBride, asking why it wasn’t murder or manslaughter.
Columbus Police Chief Tony Carleton told them investigators hadn’t yet identified where McBride intended to injure or kill Richards, but the investigation is ongoing.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Wynn said she was somewhat satisfied with the judge’s responses.
“I’m satisfied,” she said. “I at least feel like I can breathe a little bit now.”
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.