Clayton Jerrod Ellington, who was convicted in 2008 of the 2006 murder of his wife and their 2-year-old twin sons, is appealing the three death sentences he was given by a DeKalb County court. The case is to go before the Georgia Supreme Court Monday, July 9, at 10 a.m.
According to medical examiners, Ellington’s wife Berna Ellington, 31, and the couple’s identical twin sons, Christian and Cameron, all died from blunt force trauma caused by the claw end of a hammer. The family lived in a house on Rambling Way in Lithonia. Ellington, a restaurant manager, and Sean Fennell, a 19-year-old Morehouse College student also employed at the restaurant, had gone to the home of Tomeka Patillo, the evening of May 17, 2006, to watch a basketball game. Patillo, who also worked at the restaurant, was having an affair with Ellington, according to court documents.
After watching the game for about 10 minutes, Ellington said he sensed that something was wrong at his home because he had been texting his wife and she had not responded. He asked Fennell to go with him to his house to check on his family. Inside, Berna was lying face down in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs in the foyer. The children, dressed in identical red pajamas, were found dead in separate cribs.
Ellington was arrested the next day. Court records say initially he claimed his family was killed by an intruder while he was away, but later that day, he told an officer that he found Berna beating the twins to death with a hammer in a fit of rage, and that he took the hammer from her and beat her with it. He said that she fell down the stairs, and that he lost control, continued to hit her and killed her. In October 2008, a jury found him guilty of the three murders.
Jurors found nine aggravating circumstances, only one of which was necessary to make him eligible for the death penalty. The jury recommended the death sentence, and the court sentenced Ellington to death on each count of murder.
In a 121-page brief, attorneys with the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender contend that 21 errors were made during the trial, including allowing the jury to see “highly inflammatory photographs” of the dead children and their mother.