A man who formerly rented a room from a Hiram woman pleaded guilty to her 2017 murder and was sentenced to life in prison in Paulding Superior Court recently.
Chief Superior Court Judge Tonny Beavers accepted the guilty plea from Derek Jess Renfroe Nov. 26 for the murder of Beth Bishop-Harris in August 2017.
Beavers sentenced Renfroe, 34, to life imprisonment but with the possibility of parole and an additional 35 years on probation if he is paroled, according to a news release from the Paulding County District Attorney’s office.
Renfroe’s charges included Malice Murder, Possession of a Knife during the Commission of a Felony, Arson in the First Degree and Tampering with Evidence.
Senior Assistant DA Emily Harsen told the court facts of the case during the plea hearing Nov. 26.
Renfroe was an acquaintance of the victim's husband, Charles Harris, and started living with them at the residence at 4408 Hiram-Sudie Road near Ga. Hwy. 92 after renting a room in July 2017, Harsen said.
They lived under "deplorable" conditions, Harsen said. She said after the hearing the conditions included the house being unkempt with clothes, trash and dirty dishes piled up.
Charles Harris reportedly discovered the crime the morning of Aug. 22, 2017, and called 911. Sheriff’s deputies found Bishop-Harris, 39, dead inside her residence at about 5:49 a.m.
Firefighters also responded to the scene to extinguish a fire Renfroe had set inside the house.
An autopsy report completed by GBI Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Stacey Desamours found the cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries of the head and torso, Harsen said.
The sheriff’s office then issued a public call for help to locate Renfroe. A motorist saw the suspect walking along Mulberry Rock Road and notified deputies, who located him there the following day.
Renfroe later went to the sheriff’s office and confessed to investigators, who charged him with the murder, according to information from the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices.
After the 2017 arrest, sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. Ashley Henson praised the community’s help without which “we may not have been able to make this arrest as quickly.”
Harsen and the Paulding DA’s Violence Against Women Team handled the case for the state.
Family members of Beth Bishop-Harris attended the plea hearing Nov. 26, the DA’s office reported.
“(The victim) had two daughters and a son, and her parents and numerous other family members were present to see the plea and sentencing,” the DA’s office said in the release.
Harsen read aloud victim impact statements from Bishop-Harris’ mother, two daughters and a niece which “made a powerful impact statement as well,” the release stated.
“Ms. Bishop will be remembered by those who loved her as being one of the kindest, most positive and generous people that they had ever known.”
Renfroe had been in custody since his arrest.
Beavers on Nov. 26 also sentenced Renfroe to an additional five years in prison on charges stemming from incidents while he was in the Paulding County Jail after the 2017 murder, including two counts of Unlawful Acts of Violence in a Penal Institution, Aggravated Assault and Battery.