NWGA Scanner | October 21st, 2021

Man sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing Crandall couple in Murray County road rage incident

A Crandall man was sentenced to 50 years in prison on Wednesday for a July 2020 wreck in Murray County that killed Tommy Nickels, 19, and his wife Kristen Anna Nickels, 20, both also of Crandall, according to District Attorney Bert Poston. Anthony Leon “Tony” Brown had pleaded guilty to two voluntary manslaughter counts and an arson charge. He received 20 years each on the manslaughter counts and 10 years for the arson charge. That is the maximum sentence on each charge, and they will run consecutively. The sentence was handed down by Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris. “Mr. Brown will be parole eligible as soon as he is processed into the prison system,” said Poston. “But parole guidelines suggest that he will serve a substantial portion of his sentence before being granted parole. “The Parole Board categorizes crimes by severity level on a 1-8 scale. Voluntary manslaughter is a level 8 which means the offender typically serves either 65%, 75% or 90% of their sentence depending on a parole success score calculated by the board. That score is based in part on the offender’s prior history and particularly on any prior failures while being supervised on probation or parole. “Mr. Brown had been arrested 27 times since 2002 prior to his arrest in this case. He is a convicted felon and has several misdemeanor convictions. He has six prior probation or parole violations plus prior arrests for contempt of court and failure to appear. He was actually on bond for a misdemeanor charge when he was arrested on this case. “Given his history, I suspect he will score out at 90%. But that scoring and the ultimate parole date is of course up to the board.” Brown was originally charged with felony murder. Murray said if he had been convicted on those charges he would face life in prison without parole, which is why he agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Poston said if the case had gone to trial there was “some risk of either a not guilty verdict or a conviction for involuntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense, which carries only 10 years in confinement maximum.” Brown did not testify or make a statement at his sentencing although Murray did offer his condolences to the families on Brown’s behalf. Brown has never explained why he ran the couple off the road, according to authorities. According to a Georgia State Patrol crash report, on July 29th, 2021 at 7:17 p.m. a 2007 Ford Mustang being driven by Tommy Nickels with passenger Kristen Nickels was on Highway 411/State Route 61 near Hooker Road near Crandall. 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.” According to the report, 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.