Detective: Killing of MARTA panhandler clearly caught on train’s video

Detective: Killing of MARTA panhandler clearly caught on train’s video

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JOSHUA SHARPE/JOSHUA.SHARPE@AJC.COM
Charles Richey, standing at right, leaves court Thursday after a detective laid out the case against Richey, who is accused of murder in the death of a MARTA panhandler on a train.

The lead MARTA police detective in the case against accused killer Charles Richey said the tape tells all.

Investigator Patrick Frazier testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing for Richey, a 49-year-old mechanic who allegedly mocked and stabbed to death a panhandler on a train.

Frazier said the train’s camera system clearly captured the entire confrontation between the suspect and Damilola Azuana, 41, as they approached the Avondale station. On Jan. 24 at about 8 p.m., Azuana got on the train at the Kensington station and began asking people for money in a car carrying 10 to 15 people.

One passenger gave him some.

When he asked Richey, Richey said he worked too hard to give away his money, that he only gave money to women. He taunted Azuana lewdly, asking if, despite his appearance as a man, he had a vagina, Frazier said.

Eventually, the video, which hasn’t been released publicly and wasn't played in court, reportedly shows Azuana raise his hands in resignation.

“Leave me alone,” the panhandler said. “Look, just leave me alone.”

He walked away.

Then Richey grabbed him and a fight ensued, Frazier said.

Azuana pinned Richey to the seat, and Richey drew a knife. Richey would later say he couldn’t breathe and used the knife to get Azuana off.

The tape reportedly shows him stabbing Azuana multiple times, including in the heart.

Bleeding, the victim got up and walked down the train aisle. The doors opened at Avondale station and he got off, ending up bleeding profusely on the platform while fellow MARTA patrons tried futilely to help him. That’s on security footage as well, Frazier said.

Richey stayed on the train as it continued west. He got off at King Memorial station, according to yet another tape.

But he was tracked down by his Breeze card usage to the South Stone Mountain Road area of Lithonia, where he’d boarded a bus the morning of the killing.

Richey was arrested the next day when he spotted a MARTA officer canvassing near his neighborhood. He approached the officer and said he believed he had an active arrest warrant.

He’s charged with murder.

Richey’s attorney, Daryl Queen, offered no argument on his behalf. 

Judge Richard Foxworth quickly found probable cause for the state to proceed with the case in superior court.

Outside the courtroom, the defense attorney said he’s yet to see the tapes.

“The video is going to speak for itself,” Queen said.

But he suggested his client doesn’t feel the case is as “one-sided” as the police are painting it.

“Aggressive panhandling met with aggressive resistance,” Queen said.

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