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Crime & Law

    A service is set for next week for the three members of a prominent Atlanta family killed in an apparent double murder-suicide.  Marsha Edwards, 58, and her two children, 24-year-old Christopher Edwards II and 20-year-old Erin Edwards, will be remembered during a memorial Wednesday in southwest Atlanta, according to a spokesman for the family.  The service is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at Cascade United Methodist Church, which is at 3144 Cascade Road.  Investigators believe Marsha, the former wife of surgeon and civic leader Christoper Edwards, shot and killed the couple’s children before turning the gun on herself. Their bodies were found by police Wednesday inside her upscale Vinings townhouse after officers were asked to perform a wellness check. RELATED: Ex-wife of Atlanta Housing chairman killed 2 children, herself, police say Lots of questions remained unanswered Friday. Among them: • Who requested the wellness check? • When did the shootings take place? • What kind of gun was used? • Who is the registered owner of the gun? • What evidence prompted authorities to classify the investigation as a double murder-suicide? It could be weeks before autopsy and toxicology results shed light on those and other questions. “Dr. Edwards, his extended family and friends are in a state of grief and shock, and privacy of the family is paramount as arrangements are being made,” spokesman Jeff Dickerson said Thursday in an emailed statement. A longtime fixture in the Atlanta medical community, Edwards serves on the board of trustees of the Morehouse School of Medicine and was formerly on the board of Grady Memorial Hospital. He is the chairman of the Atlanta Housing Authority board. As news of the deaths spread, condolences poured in from those who knew the family and strangers touched by the tragedy. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her husband were among the mourners.  Erin Edwards, a Boston University student, was an intern in the mayor’s communications office last summer. Christopher Edwards II joined the Atlanta film and entertainment office in 2018 as a digital content manager.  Both were Woodward Academy graduates. They were “promising young adults and budding NABJ media professionals,” said Sarah Glover, the former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Glover said on Twitter she met the siblings at a conference in 2017.  Their mother, a medical equipment provider, was also a member of the organization, which advocates for and supports black journalists.  AJC.com has reached out to Cobb police for additional information about the deaths.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.
  • A 12-year-old boy who was shot twice near a high school football stadium may never walk again, his mother told Channel 2 Action News. Isaiah Payton and 16-year-old Damean Spear were injured when a fight led to gunfire outside Lakewood Stadium on Saturday night. Payton’s mother, Allison Wood, said her son’s dream of playing high school football will likely never come true. “They ruined my baby’s whole life,” she told the news station. “The bullet went through his spine. My child is never going to be able to walk again. It’s just hard.” George Washington Carver and Benjamin E. Mays high schools faced off in a scrimmage game at the stadium on Claire Street shortly before the shooting, AJC.com previously reported. RELATED: 12- and 16-year-old shot after fight outside high school football game Two people leaving the game got into a fight on Olive Street near the stadium, which led to the gunfire about 9:30 p.m., Atlanta police said. While the circumstances remain under investigation, the fight may have stemmed from a series of disputes that broke out inside the game. Spear’s injuries were minor, and he was released from Atlanta Medical Center the same night, police said. However, Payton remains hospitalized, and his mother has been at his side at two hospitals since the shooting, Channel 2 reported. “I ain’t really been able to get much rest, but I thank God he’s alive and breathing,” Wood said. MORE: Carver High football schedule revised after weekend shooting outside stadium No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. Police said it’s unclear if Payton and Spear were involved in the fight or if they were bystanders who were struck by stray bullets. Payton’s mother said he was caught in the crossfire. “You are at a kids’ game,” Wood said. “Why are you shooting anyway?” Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields called the incident “very disturbing” in a statement released Monday. “Regardless of whether the shooting happened inside an Atlanta Public Schools facility or later on a city street, we all have a solemn responsibility to care for our children and ensure to the best of our collective abilities that they are shielded from this kind of violence by providing the appropriate level of security,” she said. ALSO: Atlanta police chief calls shooting near high school stadium ‘disturbing’ It’s unclear if any additional safety measures will be put into place at future sporting events. Atlanta Public Schools previously said it is deferring all questions about the shooting to Atlanta police.  “We simply have to do better to identify potential issues at these events and work together to try to prevent them,” Shields said in the statement. “Our children deserve better.”  Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by calling 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website. In other news:
  • Two weeks after a 67-year-old woman was tied up and beaten during an East Point home invasion, a suspect is in custody, police said. Gelisa Lowe, 31, was arrested Wednesday in connection with the Aug. 7 break-in and assault, East Point police said in a news release.  About 3 p.m. that day, officers went to the home off Dorsey Avenue after the victim said a woman knocked her to the floor and placed a knife to her throat, the release said. The suspect then demanded she give the PIN to her bank card. During the home invasion, the suspect also tied up the victim using duct tape, AJC.com previously reported. The victim was eventually able to free herself and use a neighbor’s phone to call police. Police previously released surveillance video of the suspect covering her face while walking toward a food mart to use the victim’s debit card. She was in a blue Chevrolet Impala. RELATED: ‘Cold-hearted’: Woman sought in violent home invasion, robbery in East Point Lowe was charged with aggravated assault, home invasion, false imprisonment and financial transaction card fraud, the release said. More charges are possible. Investigators said Lowe might have gotten assistance, and they are searching for a person of interest that may go by the name Starr Redd, the release said. Anyone with information is asked to contact East Point police Detective Tysver at 404-559-6333 or 404-761-2177. 
  • A man is accused of attacking and punching a probation officer in South Georgia before being shot and killed, authorities said. About 4:30 p.m. Thursday, a Georgia Department of Community Supervision probation officer was in a Glennville pawn shop waiting for another officer to arrive, the GBI said in a news release. A man came in and allegedly began to punch the officer “without warning or reason.” The man, identified as 39-year-old Riley Eugene Peay of Glennville, spat on the officer during the incident, the release said. The officer was able to free himself briefly before pulling out his gun and warning Peay to stop. Peay allegedly continued to attack the officer, which is when the officer shot him in the shoulder. That didn’t stop Peay, forcing the officer to fire a second round of shots, killing him, the release said. The officer’s face was injured from some of the punches but he will be OK, the release said. The GBI was called in to investigate the officer-involved shooting, which is the 53rd such investigation the agency started this year. MORE: Man accused of threatening Paulding deputy with pistol during domestic dispute Glennville is in Tattnall County, about 65 miles southwest of Savannah and 220 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta. In other news:
  • Four people were arrested on numerous charges after Alpharetta police raided a house they suspected was a drug manufacturing hub and found a 6-month-old and multiple dogs inside.  Justin Walker, Randolph Echols, Preston Nolan and Swantia Lawler were all taken into custody in connection with the incident, according to Channel 2 Action News.  Police told the news station they received tips from people in the neighborhood that the home was used to manufacture drugs.  When authorities obtained a warrant to search the house, they found countless drugs inside, Alpharetta police spokesman Sgt. Howard Miller told Channel 2.  “They found heroin, meth, prescription pills that were illegally obtained and other drugs inside the home,” he said.  The house was filthy, Miller said. The temperature inside was over 90 degrees, and it lacked food, water and air. He said there was trash everywhere, as well as drug paraphernalia and edged weapons lying on the floor.  Officers found the toddler living in those conditions, Miller said. They also found dogs, one of which was badly injured with an untreated broken leg, Miller said.  Police said the 6-month-old’s grandparents took custody after child protective services got involved. The dogs are in the care of Fulton County Animal Control, Channel 2 reported.  Walker, Echols and Nolan were all booked into the Fulton County jail. Jail records show Walker is charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance and is being held on a $5,000 bond; Echols remains in jail on a $1,500 bond and is charged with possession and use of drug-related objects and possession of cocaine; Nolan faces charges of possession and use of drug-related objects and purchase, possession or control of a controlled substance and is being held on a $3,500 bond.  Lawler’s charges and bond information was not available. In other news: 
  • A baseball fan got only one strike before being escorted out of SunTrust Park last week.  Dustin Luther Wilkes, 39, of Woodstock, is accused of trying to sneak cocaine into the ballpark last Wednesday during the Braves’ game against the New York Mets, according to a Cobb County arrest warrant. About 9:30 p.m., he was stopped by security at the right field gate and asked to take off his cowboy-style boots after setting off a metal detector, the warrant said. He complied, but he allegedly grabbed something from inside one of his boots and placed it in his pants pocket. Security asked for Wilkes to pull out whatever he put in his pocket, and he tried to hide it in his left hand while turning his pockets inside out, the warrant said. He eventually showed a baggie filled with a white powder, which authorities said was cocaine. He was then arrested on a felony possession of cocaine charge. It’s unclear how much of the substance he allegedly possessed. He was released from the Cobb County jail Thursday morning on a $3,520 bond, jail records show. In other news:
  • Ten people, including the chief executive officer of a metro Atlanta-based paper and packaging company, walked away from a fiery plane crash involving a private jet in northern California, officials said.  The crash happened Wednesday morning at the Oroville Municipal Airport north of Sacramento, according to officials from the National Transportation Safety Board. Michael Doss, the CEO of Atlanta-based Graphic Packaging International, and seven members of the company’s executive staff were aboard the charter flight along with two pilots, GPI spokeswoman Sue Appleyard told AJC.com on Thursday. The group had been visiting the company’s plant in Oroville and were leaving to visit a facility in Oregon about 10:30 a.m. local time when the plane went off the runway during takeoff, she said. For reasons that are not clear, the pilot of the Cessna Citation aborted takeoff, NTSB officials said. Appleyard said she didn’t know if the plane made it off the ground before takeoff was aborted. Everyone got out in time and were uninjured. Appleyard said the cause is unknown and authorities have told the company it will take weeks to find out. She said the staff, many of whom are based in Atlanta, are back home. Appleyard said they flew back. Once the fire was extinguished, only the shell of the burned plane and about half an acre of singed grass remained.  The Federal Aviation Administration is assisting the NTSB in the investigation. In other news: 
  • Officials at Clark Atlanta University on Thursday said the school is ramping up security efforts, effective immediately, after four women were shot at a block party in front of the Atlanta University Center library.  The university’s public safety employees will start working 12-hour shifts to “enable us to provide 24-hour coverage on campus,” Interim President Lucille H. Maugé said in a message to students Thursday.  “We have heard you and we will move forward to address your concerns and improve the safety and well-being of all CAU students,” she said.  The police department is moving away from its typical eight-hour shifts “until further notice,” Clark Atlanta police Chief Debra A. Williams said. The department adjusts its manpower accordingly in response to all major incidents for more visibility on campus, she said.  Atlanta police have also committed to increase the police presence in the campus area, she said.  The new security measures come days after two Clark Atlanta students and two Spelman College students were hospitalized with injuries ranging from graze wounds to gunshot wounds during an incident at a party. The four women were hit when someone opened fire into a crowd of about 200 in front of the Robert W. Woodruff Library on James P. Brawley Drive, AJC.com previously reported.  RELATED: Man sought after 4 students shot at Atlanta University Center block party The party, hosted by a third-party event company, was supposed to be a celebration of the end of new student orientation and the start of classes Wednesday. It was an unsanctioned event, according to Maugé.  “Initial investigation seems to indicate an argument broke out between two parties prior to the shooting,” Atlanta police public affairs director Carlos Campos said Wednesday morning in a statement. “It appears the women were not the intended targets of the shooting.”  Three victims were taken by ambulance from the scene, and the fourth showed up at Grady Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound.  Police later identified the four as Erin Ennis, 18, of Powder Springs; Maia Williams-McLaren, 18, of Boston; Elyse Spencer, 18, of Rochester, N.Y.; and Kia Thomas, 19, of Jonesboro. RELATED: What defines a mass shooting? Depends who you ask Friends posted on social media that Spencer, who is a Spelman freshman, was shot in the chest, and another woman was shot in the leg. Spencer took to Twitter to let friends and family know she was OK and to thank them for their prayers. “I’m here, I’ve alive,” she said. “God got me. Y’all got me.” Three of the four women have been released from the hospital, Maugé said in a statement. The fourth student “successfully came through surgery and is recovering,” she said.  No arrests have been made. However, police released surveillance video of the man they believe shot the students. Campos said the video shows the suspect wearing a white T-shirt, gray sweat pants, a tan Gucci hat and gray New Balance sneakers.  It is unknown if the shooter was a student at the AUC, which includes Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta.  RELATED: Clark Atlanta sophomore steps in to help wounded student after shooting Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by calling 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.
  • A funeral is set for Friday for the 19-year-old pregnant woman found buried last week in a wooded area of DeKalb County. The body of Téa Choates was discovered Aug. 13 behind the Lithonia home she shared with her grandmother and fiancé, 18-year-old Aldeyshaun Locklear. He was arrested hours later on a murder charge after allegedly confessing to the crime. Locklear was among the concerned family members who filed a missing person report with DeKalb County police after Choates disappeared Aug. 6. RELATED: Fiancé arrested after body of missing teen found in DeKalb County woods Choates spent much of her childhood in Johns Creek, where she attended Northview High School and was a member of the Stingray Allstars, a competitive cheerleading team. Her parents and younger sister have since moved to the Tampa area. Choates’ mother, Ebony King, runs a home for girls rescued from human trafficking and domestic abuse in Palmetto. Before her daughter’s death, King told AJC.com she implored Choates to join them in Florida, but she chose to try to make a turbulent relationship with Locklear work. She was three months pregnant. “She really just wanted the family,” King said. “She said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to leave him because I really want a family. He’s being much nicer now.’” According to DeKalb County police, Locklear confessed to killing Choates inside their home after an argument got out of hand.  Her death was one of two recent domestic violence homicides to send shockwaves through the DeKalb County community. On Aug. 1, Aleka Simmons, 27, was allegedly shot and killed by her boyfriend, Otis Walker. An exchange of gunfire at their Stonecrest home also wounded a DeKalb County police officer. Walker is facing a murder charge in Simmons’ death. Shelley Serdahely, the interim executive director of Men Stopping Violence, said her organization has noticed an increased interest in prevention work in DeKalb County. The nonprofit organization seeks to empower men to get off the sidelines and take action to end violence against women. “Men, all people for that matter, generally don’t think about domestic violence until something like this happens,” she said.  Churches are calling to learn how they can get involved. The county has put more resources toward prevention and advocacy. Serdahely said she hopes more victims will reach out for help, and more community groups will take steps to intervene. “Let’s not just wait until we have a tragedy, lets do something about domestic violence now,” she said.  Several other local agencies are available to help victims, including the Women’s Resource Center, International Women's House, Tapestri and Victim Information and Notification Everyday. Choates’ funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at First Iconium Baptist Church, 542 Moreland Ave., Atlanta. Family and friends will celebrate her life Saturday at Costley Mill Park in Conyers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Laura Jaka, a friend of the family, is continuing fundraising efforts for Choates’ burial fund. A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $9,000 of its $13,000 goal as of Thursday.
  • The man who fell to his death at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel was a 20-year-old local man, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Thursday.  Akem Q. Ferguson, of the Atlanta area, died Monday afternoon when he fell while jumping from a 10th-floor balcony, according to investigators. He was not a guest at the hotel, and it’s not known why he was there.  » RELATED: Man exposes self, falls to death at Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel Police were called to the iconic Peachtree Street hotel after a housekeeper reported a man had exposed himself to her.  The housekeeper reported the alleged incident to hotel security, according to Investigator James White with Atlanta police. When hotel security officers attempted to confront the man, he ran. Ferguson apparently attempted to jump to the balcony below, but instead fell to the ground and died from his injuries, police said. The death is believed to be accidental and no criminal charges are expected, White said.