He was always smiling and always happy, according to friends and customers. But Wednesday afternoon, the 37-year-old’s smile greeted customers from a framed picture that’s part of a makeshift memorial inside the northwest Georgia gas station where he was killed.
Dahyabhi Kalidas Chaudhari, known as DK, died late Sunday after being stabbed inside a Whitfield County store. The small community along Airport Road was shocked to learn of the killing, described as the kind of thing that just doesn’t happen around here.
Store owners couldn’t even recall a robbery or any crime in more than two years. But two days after the killing, a suspect was behind bars.
Within hours of being identified as the suspect in the crime, a 21-year-old woman was in custody. And it was tips from the community that helped lead local, state and federal investigators to Skyy Raven Marie Mims.
“We got a fantastic lead,” GBI Special Agent Mike Ramey said Wednesday. “This was an absolute true partnership to solve this.”
Mims, of Detroit, is accused of stabbing Chaudhari to death inside the gas station, then helping herself to cash and lottery tickets, police said.
The Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office initiated the investigation and was soon joined by GBI agents and U.S. Marshals, who zeroed in on the suspect Tuesday afternoon in Bartow County. Mims tried to escape, but was quickly taken into custody.
At her first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, Mims heard the charges against her, which include murder and armed robbery. She confirmed to a magistrate judge that she was not already on parole or probation, and that her birthday was six days ago.
The court appearance, shown to reporters on a computer, lasted a matter of seconds. But it did nothing to answer the question those around Dalton want to know: Why?
“She was just planning on killing someone,” said Ron Williamson of Whitfield County.
Williamson works part time at the Kanku station and was sitting with a group of owners inside the store Wednesday afternoon, just steps away from where Chaudhari died.
Chaudhari had no enemies, but instead quickly made friends with customers, many of whom have stopped by in recent days to express their sympathies to other employees.
The store’s owners said they are from the same north Indian community as their slain friend and even share his last name. DK, as he was called, didn’t have family in the area, but he was like family to owners including Jay and Andy Chaudhari. In recent years, all came to the United States from their native country seeking a better life. And DK was happy, always smiling, according to those closest to him.
Late Sunday, DK was apparently approached from behind by a woman who covered his mouth and hit him in the back of the head, store owners said Wednesday. Then, she stabbed him. The killing was caught on a store surveillance camera, and the video is with investigators. Andy Chaudhari said he isn’t ready to watch it.
The gas station remained closed most of Monday before re-opening Tuesday. And Wednesday afternoon, it was busy again. Customers stopped to pump gas and took a minute to walk inside to express their sympathies. Near the cash registers, a peace lily sat on the floor and a vase of flowers was on top of a cooler next to DK’s picture. Customers in and out of the store dropped cash into a plastic container.
Jay Chaudhari said a funeral will be held locally for his slain friend, but no plans have been made yet. Then, DK’s body will be returned to India, where he is survived by two brothers and other family members.
Mims’ next court appearance will be Friday at 9 a.m. before Superior Court Judge Jack Partain.