A LaGrange family is struggling to make sense of a Labor Day weekend slaying that took the life of a son, brother and father of seven.
Tony Gilliam started working at the Walmart Distribution Center in Opelika, Ala. three months ago. The 29-year-old man, who attended Troup High School and whose children range from ages 2-10, was stabbed to death around 10 p.m. Saturday at a house in the 100 block of Belk Street.
Coranzo Sterling, 34, of LaGrange, is accused in the killing. Police say Gilliam was stabbed multiple times with a 12-inch knife. The stabbing occurred after an argument started over a $10 debt allegedly owed to the Sterling, according to police. Gilliam was taken to West Georgia Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Sterling fled the scene on Saturday night, but returned to the area about four hours later. He was located in a wooded area and found by a K-9 unit during a search after officers surrounded the woods.
On Tuesday, Gilliam’s mother, Bertha Mae Williams, was surrounded by a steady stream of family members and friends who arrived to offer condolences and support to Gilliam’s mother at the home on Hamilton Road she also shared with her son and husband. Williams said she was unaware of any underlying issues between her son and Sterling, who is being held without bond in the Troup County Jail.
“He was a good person, a friendly person,” Williams said while seated at the family’s kitchen table Tuesday. “And everybody loved him. It was just something that didn’t have to happen.”
Gilliam’s younger sister, Sajuana Simpson, 26, said, her brother and Sterling knew each other well. “They were friends,” she said. “They didn’t have no problems. They had just seen each other the day before, that’s why I don’t understand it.”
The family said Gilliam was looking forward to the future as he recently obtained a pickup truck and enjoyed going to work, spending time with friends, family and especially his children. “He just liked to work. He loved his kids” Simpson said.
Williams also echoed her daughter’s sentiments. “He had just bought himself a truck,” Williams said. “He was fine. Everything was fine. I just didn’t know my baby was going to lose his life over Labor Day weekend.”
Meanwhile, LaGrange police investigators met with the Gilliam’s family on Tuesday. Det. Hilton Swanson said Tuesday, “to be honest, there isn’t a lot of information about the case. It’s basically about what the press release stated. Unfortunately right now, I can’t release anything else, but once we get to the point where we can, I will certainly let you know.”
Swanson confirmed Sterling had an initial court appearance, but no bond has been set. He noted a bond hearing would most likely take place in about two weeks.
Gilliam’s body was taken to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office in Atlanta where an autopsy was to be completed. Swanson did not have any results from that examination.