A Crandall man has been charged with two counts of murder and other charges in connection with a hit-and-run collision on July 29 in Murray County that killed Tommy Nickels, 19, and his wife Kristen Nickels, 20. Both also lived in Crandall.
Anthony Leon "Tony" Brown, 35, of 11247 Highway 411 N., was charged Tuesday by the Murray County Sheriff's Office with two counts of felony murder, aggravated assault with a vehicle and second-degree arson.
The crash happened at 7:17 p.m. on Highway 411/State Route 61 near Hooker Road near Crandall, according to a Georgia State Patrol report. During the next six days the sheriff's office and the Georgia State Patrol's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team "pored over mountains of information and leads that led them to Brown's home looking for a silver 2006 Suzuki Reno," according to a sheriff's office press release.
The press release states that on Tuesday afternoon, sheriff's office Capt. Tim Bell, sheriff's office Chief Deputy Jimmy Davenport and state Trooper Stephen Langham went to Brown's home. After a "short foot pursuit," Brown was "taken into custody and the burned remains of (a) 2006 Suzuki Reno was located behind the residence."
Davenport said Thursday that the case is still under investigation and deputies are trying to determine if there was any connection between Brown and the couple and what his motive was.
District Attorney Bert Poston said Brown will have a bond hearing in Murray County Superior Court on Wednesday.
The State Patrol report states a 2007 Ford Mustang was driven by Tommy Nickels. Kristen Nickels was a passenger.
A witness said a silver sedan “approached the Mustang from the rear and started striking the rear portion of the Mustang. She stated both vehicles then struck one another multiple times after the initial contact. She stated the roadway turned (into) a two lane with a continuous center turn lane. She stated the silver sedan moved to the right side of the Mustang and struck his vehicle on the right side causing it to leave the roadway and crash.”
The report states the Mustang “traveled off the west side of the roadway, while rotating counterclockwise.” It overturned on its passengers side and struck a tree “with the top of the vehicle’s passenger compartment.” It finally “landed upright facing north after impact with the tree.” Debris from the vehicle struck a nearby mobile home.
The witness said the sedan hit its brakes at a gas station just past the crash site and then left. She said the driver “appeared to be a white male with short dark hair” and “appeared to be very tall.”
The State Patrol report states multiple video cameras in the area showed what appeared to be a silver Chevrolet Optra, which is a four-door hatchback, traveling north on Highway 411/State Route 61 after the crash. The report states the trooper contacted the witness and asked her to look up that make and model and she said it looked "like the type of vehicle" that struck the Mustang.
Davenport said all of the information the sheriff's office had pointed to a Suzuki Reno.
Both Tommy and Kristen Nickels were pronounced dead at the scene.
Court records show Brown had been arrested multiple times dating to 2002.
Among those arrests, in 2010, he was sentenced to 12 months probation after being convicted of battery (family violence). In 2012, he was sentenced to five years "confinement" after being found guilty of possession of a schedule 4 controlled substance. In 2018, he was sentenced to 40 days in the county jail and 10 months and 20 days on probation after pleading guilty to battery.
Brown was charged by the sheriff's office on July 15 with electronic transmission/posting of a video or photo depicting nudity or sexually explicit conduct without consent. Poston said that case is pending.