Murder Suspects Found Guilty on All Counts

A jury has found three men guilty of felony murder for two separate home invasion robberies that occurred on the night of November 25, 2016. The trio was found guilty of all 22 criminal indictments Friday afternoon in Troup County Superior Court.

Gerald Jerome Florence Jr., age 34; Marcus Antonio Leslie, age 35; and Lewis Antonio Shells, age 35 were each sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole plus an additional 10 years for multiple counts of Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, Home Invasion Robbery, Armed Robbery, First Degree Burglary, and additional lesser charges.

The sentences were handed out by Judge W. Travis Sakrison once the jury returned a guilty verdict after deliberating only about an hour at the end of the week-long trial.

Florence, Leslie, and Shells were found guilty of murdering LaGrange resident, Darius Tucker, during one of two home invasion robberies over Thanksgiving weekend in 2016.

The State’s case was based primarily on confessions from Jarvis Dewayne Duncan and Michael Lee Fair, co-conspirators in the violent incidents, as well as video that showed the subjects in LaGrange the night of the robberies.

All but one of the assailants was from the Marietta area. Only Shells was from LaGrange and familiar with the incident locations. According to the prosecution, the group met up with Shells and he led them to both homes looking to score drugs and cash.

Shells first took the group to a residence on Saynor Circle, where they bound David Rhodes and Deanna Cameron in duct tape and robbed them. Police detectives believe the assailants targeted the home due their belief that the location contained large quantities of illegal drugs and money.

The homeowner testified in court that Shells was aware that he had recently won $3,000 in a poker game.

The suspects found Rhodes and Cameron outside the Saynor Circle home and forced them inside the unoccupied residence at gunpoint. Rhodes testified that he was bound in duct tape and carried inside. Once inside, Cameron was also bound and the assailants demanded to know where the money was located.

The suspects took money from the victims and ransacked the home looking for the cash from the poker game. After they were unable to locate the cash, the suspects stole a TV and one of the victim’s vehicles and relocated to Granger Park, where they were caught on video loading the stolen television into their vehicle.

Later that night, Shells led the group to a second home on Edgewood Avenue.

The suspects burst into the Edgewood Avenue home and were met with screaming and resistance from resident Adrian Tucker.

Adrian was shot multiple times and her son, Darius Tucker attempted to help, but was shot through a bedroom door. Darius later died at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center from injuries sustained during the incident.

Using video from Granger Park, police were able to identify a suspect vehicle for the assailants and track them back to Marietta, GA. Property taken during the incidents was later found in Fair’s home.

Detectives with the La-Grange Police Department initially secured arrest warrants for Duncan, Lee, Fair, and Shells, charging them with Murder and other felony offenses. Duncan and Fair were arrested in Marietta November 28, 2016 with the assistance of Marietta and Cobb County Police. Shells was arrested the next day in LaGrange.

The fifth suspect, who was initially only referred to as “Mod,” was later arrested after police identified him as Marcus Leslie.

The defense challenged the stories of Duncan and Fair, arguing that they had committed the incidents and tried to pin it on the other suspects. Duncan and Fair both received reduced sentences for their testimonies.

Leslie’s girlfriend also testified that he had been with her during the incident.

In the end, the jury appeared to believe the confessions of Duncan and Fair despite their negotiated sentences.

Florence, Leslie, and Shells were found guilty on all 22 criminal indictments.

Prior to sentencing, Assistant DA Jim Powers pointed out that Florence, Leslie, and Shells deserved life sentences even before the second robbery, but they chose to commit another robbery and ended up shooting two more victims, fatally wounding one of them.

Victim Adrian Tucker addressed the court during the sentencing phase, pointing out that she was still in recovery from the incident.

“It’s been a long year of therapy, rehab, and missing my son,” said Tucker, “I still have to live in the house where he was killed.”

Tucker also directly addressed the only local defendant, Antonio Shells, while fighting back tears.

“Tony Shells, you know my family. Those guys didn’t know my family. You brought them here. I hope you rot in jail.”

Because of their recidivist status, all three defendants were each given two life without parole sentences, plus ten years to be served consecutively. The remaining indictments will be served concurrently.

After the trial was over and sentencing was complete, Adrian thanked the district attorney’s office and LaGrange Police, particularly Detective Jeremy Jones for the work he did on the case.

“We got justice for Chico,” Adrian said, using a nickname she had for her son, Darius. “I feel like I can breathe now.”

Drew Case, one of the Assistant District Attorneys on the case, commended the hard work of all involved in this case and their combined efforts to see justice done. Case stated that the LaGrange Police Department and their dedication made this case came together the way that it did, as they put in hours and hours of work.

Case also stated that while this verdict will not bring Mr. Tucker back, he hopes that this will provide at least some peace to the family. Case additionally stated that verdicts such as this fall in line with the District Attorney’s Office’s mission to keep every citizen in Troup County safe.

The author of this article can be reached via email at tmurphy@troupcountynews. net.