Murder charges were dropped against Jarrell A. Washington, 20, who was arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of David Nixon, 53, and family friend Michael Deon Cruver, 26, at Nixon’s home at 111 Molette St. in Carrollton about 1:50 a.m.
Nixon’s 27-year-old son, Reginald, managed to survive a gunshot wound to his shoulder during the home invasion and has become a key witness in the case. Robbery has been cited as the apparent motive.
The remaining suspects, Robert Andrew Robinson, 23, Lance Thomas Jr., 20, Tony R. Smith, 22, all from Ohio, and James Lee Prothro III, 24, of Carrollton - all charged with murder - stood before Judge Alton Johnson while testimony was presented. The judge then ruled to have their cases bound over to a grand jury for possible indictments.
Carrollton police Lt. James Perry testified that Robinson fell and dropped his cell phone, which was later found and used by detectives to help identify the suspects.
Perry said Reginald Nixon told investigators that he did not know the men who entered the home that night and killed his father. According to Perry, the younger Nixon said Cruver had only stopped by minutes before the robbery attempt, and Reginald Nixon had been on the couch wrapping Christmas presents when two men knocked on the door with guns drawn.
Reginald Nixon was shot from behind on the shoulder, then fell to the floor and pretended to be dead. One of the men then stepped over the wounded Nixon and fired a shot into his father’s room. Police testified that the elder Nixon was asleep in bed when he was killed and probably never knew what happened.
Cruver, police said, had been shot in the back of his head and was found slumped over an end-table at the front door to the residence.
“In the living room there were obvious signs of a struggle,” Perry testified.
Two bullet fragments were found in David Nixon’s bedroom - one under the bed and another in a drawer, according to police.
“None of them realized they were in Carrollton,” Perry said in court. “They thought they were in Atlanta.”
The suspects, police said, had bought marijuana and were “partying” while in Carrollton visiting Smith’s cousin, Cherelle Williams, 21, after traveling from Ohio in a rental car before stopping by Robinson’s family’s house in Beaufort, S.C., where the three Ohio men were later arrested.
Robinson is being represented by Carrollton attorney Jason Swindle.
Williams was initially charged with murder in the case, but authorities dropped all charges against her. Another woman, Monique Springer, 30, of Carrollton, was charged with false imprisonment after police said she lied about Williams’ involvement in the shooting.
Perry testified that Williams corroborated Washington’s statements to investigators that he had been asleep on her couch while the other four suspects left the house on Christmas Eve.
According to police testimony, Washington said the suspects woke him and said “we have to leave” after the shooting, and drove to South Carolina that same night.
During a search of Robinson’s father’s house in South Carolina and in the rental car, Perry said in court that numerous articles of clothing - mostly all black - that appeared to have blood stains on them while the hood of a jacket with possible traces of brain matter were found.
Smith’s attorney, Rick Samper, argued the judge should dismiss the charges against his client following information that Smith did not enter the house and was drunk and falling in and out of consciousness inside the car.
Perry testified that Prothro, who was represented by attorney John Howe, acknowledged that he had known Reginald Nixon. Police testified that it was Prothro who had led them to the Nixon home, because the Ohio men did not even know they were not in Atlanta.
The grand jury will meet later this month.