GUILTY

An­ta­vian Love found guilty on 7 charges in the mur­der of En­rique Ramirez Trejo

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DARRYL WELCH dwelch@cov­mews.com

Satur­day, June 18, 2016 was prob­a­bly play­ing out like many oth­ers for En­rique Ramirez Trejo dur­ing his 25-year ca­reer at El Charro Mex­i­can Res­tau­rant. He locked up the store on Cov­ing­ton By­pass, walked across the park­ing lot to his 1999 Ford Ex­pe­di­tion, climbed in and drove out head­ing home.

He stopped at the Shell gas sta­tion at the in­ter­sec­tion of Cov­ing­ton By­pass and Hwy-36 to buy a cou­ple of beers. While there, he was ap­proached by then-16-yearold An­ta­vian Love who was ac­com­pa­nied by two youths. Love talked Trejo into giv­ing him and the two boys a ride.

En­rique Trejo would never make it home to en­joy his beers. Nor would he see his fam­ily again.

An­ta­vian Love, now 17, was con­victed Thurs­day of killing Trejo and dump­ing his body in a ditch be­fore steal­ing Trejo’s SUV. His trial took three days.

Mon­day, April 10

The jury cho­sen to hear the case was se­lected late Mon­day af­ter­noon. Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit Dis­trict At­tor­ney Layla Zon, As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Tabitha Rogers and De­fense At­tor­ney Teri Doepke, of the Al­covy Cir­cuit Pub­lic De­fender’s of­fice, spent the morn­ing and early af­ter­noon ques­tion­ing 48 po­ten­tial jurors be­fore de­cid­ing on the eight women and four men, plus two al­ter­nates who would hear the case against Love.

Af­ter be­ing se­lected and given in­struc­tions by Al­covy Ju­di­cial Cir­cuit Judge Sa­muel Ozburn, the jury was dis­missed for the day. The trial re­sumed Tues­day, April 11, at 9 a.m.

Tues­day, April 11

At­tor­neys for both sides pre­sented open­ing ar­gu­ments to the jury. As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Rogers told the jury Trejo was do­ing a good deed when he gave Love and the two ju­ve­niles a ride from the Shell sta­tion the night of June 18 be­fore be­ing shot and dragged from his car and left on the side of the road.

Doepke told jurors the case was a horrible tragedy and re­minded them Love was 16 years old when the crimes were com­mit­ted.

Af­ter open­ing ar­gu­ments, the pros­e­cu­tion be­gan to me­thod­i­cally present its case, call­ing law en­force­ment and civil­ian wit­nesses to tes­tify.

Jurors heard the record­ing of the 911 call made by a man on his way home from work who saw Trejo’s body ly­ing in the ditch on the side of the road.

“Might have got hit but he could have got shot,” the caller was heard say­ing on the tape. “Lot of glass in the road.”

The caller told the 911 op­er­a­tor

the body on the side of the road did not ap­pear to be breath­ing.

The jury heard from the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice (NCSO) deputies who ini­tially re­sponded to the scene and the NCSO crime scene tech­ni­cian who se­cured the ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing a .40 cal­iber shell cas­ing found at the scene.

The jury also saw crime scene pho­tos of Trejo’s life­less body on the side of the road.

Jurors heard from Dr. Keith Lehman, of the State Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner’s Of­fice, who tes­ti­fied Trejo suf­fered four gun­shot wounds and a fifth su­per­fi­cial wound which the doc­tor spec­u­lated could have come from be­ing grazed by a bul­let.

He showed the jury pho­tos of the wounds, in­clud­ing a head wound which showed stip­pling. Stip­pling oc­curs when the end of the gun is within 42 inches of the vic­tim.

He ex­plained the tra­jec­tory of the four bul­lets and tes­ti­fied that he re­moved two bul­lets from Trejo’s body. He told the jury all four gun­shots would have been fa­tal.

Jurors also heard from the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment (CPD) Of­fi­cer Steve Swann who spot­ted Trejo’s stolen SUV with four oc­cu­pants near the in­ter­sec­tion of Brown Bridge and Turner Lake Roads the Sun­day evening af­ter the shoot­ing.

Swann tes­ti­fied the ve­hi­cle re­fused to stop on Brown Bridge Road and turned into the Brown Bridge Cross­ing sub­di­vi­sion. In the sub­di­vi­sion, the ve­hi­cle even­tu­ally stopped and four peo­ple ran from it. An­other of­fi­cer, Keny­atta Barnes, tes­ti­fied he en­coun­tered Love and an­other male near the pav­il­ion and base­ball field in Turner Lake Park where he de­tained them at gun­point and hand­cuffed them. NCSO Deputy Eric Al­mond tes­ti­fied he took cus­tody of the pair and trans­ported them to the New­ton County Law En­force­ment Cen­ter.

NCSO In­ves­ti­ga­tor Jo­ce­lyn Detweiler tes­ti­fied she was the in­ves­ti­ga­tor on call and re­sponded to the scene. She said Mr. Trejo was still wear­ing his El Charro work clothes and af­ter leav­ing the crime scene, she went to the res­tau­rant to look at se­cu­rity cam­era footage. The footage, shown in court, showed the vic­tim lock­ing up for the night, get­ting into his car and driv­ing away.

Detweiler also tes­ti­fied that she got tag and ve­hi­cle iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion for Trejo’s SUV and put it into the Ge­or­gia Crime In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter (GCIC). She also said that in­ves­ti­ga­tors checked se­cu­rity footage for busi­nesses be­tween the res­tau­rant and Lower River Road, in­clud­ing the video from the Shell sta­tion at Cov­ing­ton By­pass and Hwy-36.

Af­ter tes­ti­mony from law en­force­ment, jurors heard from two youths with Love the night of the mur­der.

“He pulled out his gun and shot him.”

Those chill­ing words were spo­ken by the youth sit­ting be­hind the driver’s seat that night last June, de­scrib­ing the last sec­onds of Trejo’s life.

The 13-year-old tes­ti­fied that he and his cousin were sit­ting on the porch of the cousin’s house when Love, who he called “Tay” ap­proached the pair and asked if they wanted to go to McDon­ald’s, of­fer­ing to buy them food. When the cousins de­clined, the youth tes­ti­fied Love of­fered them money to go with him, and off they went.

Ac­cord­ing to the youth’s tes­ti­mony, when they ar­rived at McDon­ald’s, it was closed. “Tay” sug­gested they walk across to the Marathon sta­tion at Hwy-36 and the Cov­ing­ton By­pass and ask for a ride home. The youth said af­ter Love asked two peo­ple for a ride and was turned down, he sug­gested they walk di­ag­o­nally across the in­ter­sec­tion to the Shell sta­tion, where Love asked and was turned down by two more peo­ple.

Love is seen on the Shell sta­tion se­cu­rity video ap­proach­ing Trejo as he walked to his 1999 Ford Ex­pe­di­tion and talk­ing for a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore he and the two youths get in and the car leaves the sta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the youth’s tes­ti­mony, Love told Trejo to keep driv­ing past Puck­ett Street where both youths thought they were sup­posed to turn. The ve­hi­cle even­tu­ally turned onto Lower River Road.

The youth told the jury Love told Trejo he had left his phone on top of the car and to stop. Af­ter the car stopped, the youth tes­ti­fied Love stepped out of the ve­hi­cle and pre­tended to look for the phone, pat­ting his pock­ets, be­fore shoot­ing Trejo.

Ac­cord­ing to the youth, who was 12 years old at time, af­ter the first shot, Trejo tried to exit the ve­hi­cle, but “‘Tay’ shot him again.”

The other youth with Love that night, who was 13 years old at the time of the mur­der, of­fered the same tes­ti­mony. Both tes­ti­fied Love dragged Trejo’s body from the vehi- cle and left it on the side of the road. Both tes­ti­fied Love threat­ened to kill them if they told any­body.

Ac­cord­ing to the sec­ond youth, who is now 14, Love told them, “If you snitch, I’ll kill you too.”

Nei­ther youth told any­body what hap­pened. Both tes­ti­fied they went home and went to bed. They said they got up on Sun­day morn­ing and went to church.

The jury saw video of the in­ter­view of Love con­ducted by NCSO In­ves­ti­ga­tors Brent Mor­ri­son and Jeff Alexan­der. Af­ter a pe­riod of ques­tion­ing, Love ad­mits to killing Trejo and tak­ing his car.

“I shot the (ex­ple­tive deleted) out of him,” he was heard say­ing.

He said he dragged Trejo’s body from the car by him­self and he planned to use the car to go look for girls. Dur­ing the lengthy in­ter­view, Love also told the in­ves­ti­ga­tors where to find the mur­der weapon.

Ex­pert wit­ness Kyle Wheelus, a firearms ex­am­iner with the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tions Crime Lab who ex­am­ined and tested the weapon, had tes­ti­fied Tues­day that the Taurus .40 cal­iber pis­tol found by in­ves­ti­ga­tors in a jacket pocket in a closet at Love’s home was the weapon used to kill Trejo.

Af­ter the video, the pros­e­cu­tion rested. The de­fense rested with­out call­ing any wit­nesses.

Dur­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments, Doepke re­minded the jury of Love’s age at the time of the mur­der. She also called into ques­tion the be­liev­abil­ity of the two teens with Love the night of the crime and ques­tioned the in­ter­view of Love by in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

She thanked the jury for al­low­ing Love to take ad­van­tage of his right to have a jury trial and asked they find him not guilty.

In her clos­ing ar­gu­ment, Zon told the jury “ly­ing, trick­ery and de­ceit” got Love into Trejo’s ve­hi­cle that night. Zon said Love took the two kids to make his story be­liev­able.

Zon told the jury Trejo’s was a cold blooded mur­der and Love had tossed a good man who was be­ing kind to him to the side of the road like a piece of trash. She also re­minded the jury of the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence in the case.

“En­rique Trejo,” she said, “de­serves jus­tice.”

It took the jury an hour to con­vict Love of the mur­der of Trejo.

“I am ap­pre­cia­tive of the jurors who served on this dif­fi­cult case. While their verdict was just, it is un­for­tu­nate that the De­fen­dant’s ac­tions had per­ma­nent con­se­quences for the Trejo fam­ily and for our com­mu­nity who lost a great man,” Zon said in an a state­ment af­ter the verdict. Doepke de­clined to com­ment. “The fam­ily is grate­ful to the com­mu­nity for keep­ing us in their prayers and for all their sup­port. We also thank the jury for their time,” Luis Trejo, son of the vic­tim, said.

Love will be sen­tenced af­ter a pre­sen­tenc­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion or­dered by the judge is con­ducted and a pre­sen­tenc­ing hear­ing is held.

In ad­di­tion to three mur­der counts, Love was also con­victed of armed rob­bery, ag­gra­vated as­sault, theft by re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty and pos­ses­sion of a firearm dur­ing the com­mis­sion of a felony.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

Sub­mit­ted photo | The Cov­ing­ton News

En­rique Ramirez Trejo was a man­ager at El Charro Res­tau­rant at the time of his death.

Love

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