The three men could get life in prison at a sentencing hearing Monday.
Percy “P” Burdine, 31; Jalin “Snoop” Collins, 20; and Brandon “Gutter” Love, 20, were convicted of felony murder, aggravated assault, and marijuana-possession charges in the April 21, 2012 shooting death of Milton Carl Kelley, 53, at Kelley’s Leicester Drive home.
Love was the triggerman, according to evidence presented at trial.
“The motive was greed — wanting drugs and money,” Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans told jurors.
Cobb Police said Kelley was found dead in his driveway by officers when they responded to an emergency call received at 10:45 p.m. on a Saturday on Leicester Drive in the Canterbury West subdivision off Bells Ferry Road.
Following the shooting, family members told the MDJ they didn’t know any more about what happened that day than what they’d seen in news reports.
Evidence presented at this week’s trial filled in a lot of the blanks.
Prosecutors showed the three defendants shared a house in Woodstock, and Burdine had previously bought marijuana from Kelley.
At some point, Burdine decided he didn’t want to buy any more pot from Kelley. He wanted to steal it, according to evidence presented by police. He made several calls and texts to Kelley to make sure he was home April 21. But, because Kelley would recognize him, Burdine enlisted the other two men, who went to the house armed with handguns, to steal the marijuana.
During the attack, Love shot Kelley through the eye at close range, “for nothing,” Evans said. Afterward, texts between Burdine and Collins indicated a concoction of alibis.
“Burdine and Collins claimed they had alibis and weren’t present at the crime scene,” Evans said. “But, fortunately, we had some great detective work done in this case by Chris Twiggs and John Bratley of Cobb County Police.”
Evans said the two cops put together a detailed analysis of cell phone data in which they were able to determine that the defendants’ cellphones “were actually signaling off a cell tower very near our crime scene,” Evans said.
“What’s interesting about that is, because we were able to present that at trial, their testimony changed and they said they had in fact gone over there (to Kelley’s home) but in doing so they had to admit they lied to police.”
Evans said he had to confront the issue of Kelley’s pot sales early on with the jury.
“He was involved in selling marijuana from his home and that was a fact we brought up to the jury very early on, and in fact that was the motivation in this crime,” Evans said. “They felt he would be an easy person to rob of drugs and money.”
Evans said it remains unclear whether the three men conspired to kill Kelley or whether they simply intended to rob him of the drugs.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to say for sure,” he said. “But the best evidence we have is this was a set up to do a drug deal, a robbery that ended tragically in murder.”
The murder weapon was a 9 mm handgun, which was used to fire a single shot to the eye from a distance of about 7 inches.
Family gets closure
Kelley’s parents and his daughter were present for the verdict Thursday and his 18-year-old son Mikel had testified during the nearly two-week trial.
“They were extremely emotional, very pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Evans said. “And they were thrilled that finally after such a long process we were able to get closure, if there is such a thing.”
The family Kelley leaves behind includes six children, ages 14 to 32.
His oldest child, Shawna Kelley Welch, said her father had a “slick mouth” telling people how things needed to be done. But she said he was usually right.
“There was never a time that I needed something and he wasn’t there,” she told the MDJ after the killing in April 2012. “His way was the best way. He was our Superman.”
Milton Kelley’s nephew, Bruce Thomas, said his uncle worked as a garage mechanic.
“He could take anything apart and put it back together,” Thomas said.
Old gas and oil jugs still sat at the foot of Kelley’s garage door in his home in the older wooded neighborhood just south of Interstate 575. The family moved to Cobb in the mid-1990s from their native New Jersey.
Mikel Kelley, then 17, had said his father was teaching him how to work on cars.
Sentencing hearing Monday
Cobb Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster presided over the trial, which began Oct. 21 with jury selection. All three could get life in prison when they are sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday.
All three men were arrested three days after the killing and have been held without bond at the Cobb County jail since.
Collins and Love were also convicted of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Love was also convicted of malice murder.
Burdine was represented by attorney Gary Jones. Collins was represented by attorneys Terence Bradley and Christopher Campbell. Love was represented by attorney Michael Ivan.
All of the attorneys have offices in Marietta.