DA: Murderer flees Fulton County courthouse before verdict

A massive manhunt has been launched for a murderer called by authorities as dangerous, who fled the Fulton County courthouse before being convicted Friday.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard said Verlaine LaGuerre, 26, fled the courthouse Friday before a guilty verdict was handed down in the October 2011 shooting death of 19-year-old Matthew Hardeman.

A spokesperson for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office said the judge dismissed the court for lunch, and Laguerre did not return to the courtroom when everyone was supposed to return. 

The DA said his fellow defendant, 28-year-old Prentice Baker, Jr., who also was convicted, remained in court. The two had been out of jail on bond since 2012. 

Fulton County deputies with the Marshal's task force are now searching for Laguerre, authorities said. 

Hardeman, who graduated from Avondale High School and was attending Cal State Fullerton on a football scholarship until a knee injury sidelined him, was shot more than 50 times by Laguerre, Baker, and a third gunman who has not yet been identified at Hardeman’s home by Lakewood Terrace in southeast Atlanta. His body was left in his front yard only to be discovered later by family members.

Hardeman was taking Criminal Justice classes at Georgia State University at the time of the deadly shooting and was working on condition for his return to the gridiron for the Panthers the following season.

Laguerre and Baker were both found guilty of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Laguerre and Baker were both sentenced to life in prison plus 5 years.

Hardeman's family told FOX 5 News off-camera they are frightened that the convicted murderer is on the loose and are afraid what he could do next. 

Anyone who sees Laguerre should not approach him, but rather call 911 or the U.S. Marshal's Office immediately.