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(Tribune News Service) — Jury selection is expected to begin Monday in the trial of an Army sergeant accused of murder in the strangulation slaying of his girlfriend, a Fort Valley State University student who disappeared on Valentine's Day in 2020.

The body of Anitra LaShay Gunn was found four days later in a pine thicket in southern Crawford County.

Investigators have said that Gunn, a 22-year-old agriculture major from Atlanta, was strangled.

Her vanishing two years ago on the eve of shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic attracted statewide news coverage as police searching for her combed the countryside along the Crawford-Peach county borders.

Seven days after she disappeared, her boyfriend, Demarcus Devantae Little, now 25, an Army sergeant stationed in Augusta, was charged with murder.

As is common before a case makes it to trial, authorities have not publicly divulged any potential evidence they may have gathered that allegedly links Little to the killing.

Gunn was last seen at a house where Little's aunt lived on the north side of Fort Valley, where Little, who grew up in Houston and Peach counties, often stayed.

Gunn's body was found less than two miles away on Feb. 18, 2020, after a Peach sheriff's investigator noticed a disturbed patch of roadside grass and brush that looked like a car had rumbled through it.

Little was questioned at least three times by investigators early in the probe. He was first jailed on charges that he slashed the tires on Gunn's car, a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, and smashed her apartment windows with a brick a week and a half before she went missing.

After she vanished, her car, which had roadside grass and vegetation jammed in its grille, turned up near her apartment with its front bumper broken.

Because investigators believe Gunn was killed in Peach, the case will be tried there, in Fort Valley, with Judge Connie L. Williford presiding.

If convicted of murder, Little faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

Soon after Little was charged in the case, his lawyer, Benjamin Davis of Atlanta, spoke to reporters at a first-appearance hearing and lauded his client's military background.

"We believe that in time what will be shown is that he's really not capable of committing this kind of offense," the attorney said. "If he were the kind of person that would commit a malice murder ... like this, that would have been borne out in the military."

Davis said his client had no criminal history.

"If you look at his character, from all we know about him right now," Davis said, "he is not the kind of individual that would go out and commit a cold-blooded murder. Certainly not strangle somebody."

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

(c)2022 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

Visit The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.) at www.macon.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A wooden gavel and block is seen inside the Senate Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

A wooden gavel and block is seen inside the Senate Hart Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)


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