Rome News-Tribune

Second teen enters plea in robbery plot that led to death

♦ The 15-year-old pleads guilty to charges including criminal attempt to commit home invasion.

- By John Bailey

Another teen pleaded guilty to an Aug. 24, 2020 robbery conspiracy that led to the shooting death of the target’s 57-year-old grandmothe­r, Laura Regina Ross.

On Friday, 15-year-old Thomas Lane Dean Jr. pleaded guilty to criminal attempt to commit home invasion, criminal attempt to commit aggravated assault and a criminal attempt to commit robbery before Floyd County Superior Court Judge Bryan Johnson.

While the plea is open, meaning no sentencing deal has been published, the Floyd County

District Attorney’s Office is dropping other charges, including murder, against Dean.

The juvenile is being tried as an adult alongside two other co-defendants, Selena Jenae Barnes and Marvin Leedale Cronan, who were juveniles at the time of the crime. Another codefendan­t, Tyree Kozel Daniels, was 17 at the time of the crime.

Barnes pleaded guilty Thursday to the same charges, and like Dean, with the understand­ing she would testify against her co-defendants.

An indictment filed in January states that Barnes, Cronan and Dean conspired to rob Ross’ grandson Owen Dotson. The plan stemmed from an April 25, 2020, incident where Dotson had stolen shoes from Dean, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Salmon said.

Dean had seen a Snapchat post by Dotson where he claimed to have come into some money, Salmon said, “everyone was to ‘get a cut of everything that was taken.’”

Barnes brought Daniels into the group because he had a car and none of the others did, she testified earlier.

“The plan to retaliate against Mr. Dotson grew more serious,” Salmon said. “Mr. Daniels introduced a firearm into the situation.”

As part of his plea, Dean testified about the events leading up to the shooting during the Friday hearing.

When they arrived at Ross’s home at 126 Baker St., Dean,

Cronan and Daniels got out of the car.

Daniels handed Cronan the gun and told him “use it to scare them into not doing anything back,” Dean said.

They walked to the porch while Dean remained behind as a lookout.

“(Cronan) listened at the door and kicked the door,” Dean testified, “then fired into the house.” Cronan and Daniels ran back to the car but had to retrieve one of Cronan’s white Crocs that had fallen off.

“(Cronan) said she had seen his face, he had no choice,” Dean testified.

Over the next few days, Dean, Barnes and Cronan came up with a false alibi, and also talked about ways to pin the crime on Daniels. Originally, Dean told police the concocted story blaming Daniels, Salmon said.

“Immediatel­y upon the placement of the handcuffs, he blurted out that Mr. Cronan was the actual shooter,” Salmon told the court.

They were all arrested several days later and have been held at the Floyd County Jail or regional youth detention centers.

Judge Johnson ordered a pre-sentencing investigat­ion and said Dean, like Barnes, will be sentenced after the cases are adjudicate­d for the remaining defendants.

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