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Bond denied in South grad’s beating death
Judge: Suspect ‘poses a threat to the community’

STATESBORO — Ogeehcee Judicial Circuit Chief Judge William Woodrum Jr. denied bond Thursday for a man charged in the felony murder of a Georgia Southern University freshman from Forsyth County.

Grant James Spencer, 20, is being held in the Bulloch County Jail, charged with felony murder and aggravated battery. He is accused of beating to death Michael Gatto, 18, on Aug. 28 at Rude Rudy's in University Plaza.

Spencer, a Georgia Southern junior from Johns Creek, was employed by Rude Rudy's as a bouncer, but was reportedly off-duty the night the beating occurred.

Rude Rudy's has since closed its doors, with owner Jonathan Starkey surrendering his alcohol license prior to a Sept. 24 hearing scheduled by the Statesboro City Council to review the case.

Gatto, who was a 2014 graduat of South Forsyth High School, died of blunt force trauma hours after he was beaten, suffering from skull fractures and other head injuries, according to coroner's reports.

A bond hearing Oct. 15 lasted more than three hours, with witnesses testifying about the incident, as well as others vouching for Spencer's character.

Woodrum heard the motion for bond and told the court afterward that he would review the testimony and decide later whether to grant the bond.

He ordered Thursday that bond be denied because Spencer failed to prove he is not a risk.

Spencer failed to meet the burden of proof that he would not pose a risk of fleeing, committing more crimes or intimidating witnesses, Woodrum said in the order.

"The defendant has resided in Statesboro for just over a year, and during that time he has been arrested several times," the order reads. "With each arrest the charges have increased in severity. When the present offense occurred the defendant was out on bond for a previous offense.

“All of these facts tend to show the defendant's lack of ties to Statesboro and the risk that the defendant would commit another offense while awaiting trial."

Woodrum noted that evidence presented at the bond hearing showing that Spencer was arrested sometime in August 2013 for minor in possession of alcohol.

Then in April, Spencer violated his probation when he was arrested for driving under the influence, possession of false identification and giving a false name to a police officer, and he was out on bond for the April arrest when Gatto was killed, Woodrum said.

Spencer also "poses a threat to the community," Woodrum said in the order.

"When all of the above is considered, it seems apparent to the court that not only does the defendant have a prior criminal record in this jurisdiction that is increasing in severity," the order says, "but that the defendant has a complete disregard for the legal system and any conditions of probation or bond that may be set upon him."

Woodrum said he denied bond because Spencer poses a "threat or danger to any person or the community and there is a risk of the defendant committing another felony while awaiting trial."