The bodies of two men who were reported missing from Athens three months ago were found in a Gwinnett County storage unit Sunday, police said.
Joshua Lee Jackson and Derrick Davion Ruff, both 25, were found dead after a joint investigation led officers to search a 100-acre area in Gwinnett County off Lawrenceville Highway, according to Athens-Clarke County police. The Gwinnett County Police Department is working the case as a homicide.
“The initial investigation was just a missing persons case,” Athens-Clarke County police Capt. Jerry Saulters said during a news conference in Gwinnett County on Tuesday. “Since then, we've linked it to other activity. ... We do know that the motive was, in part, gang activity.”
Two men have been charged in connection with the deaths, and one is still at large.
Jackson and Ruff were last seen Dec. 18 traveling in a Ford Expedition on Habersham Drive in Athens. The Ford was found three days later abandoned in a neighborhood off Monfort Road outside of Lawrenceville.
The two were close friends, Saulters said.
“They were described by family and friends as, ‘If you've seen one, you've seen the other,’” he said. “They were always together.”
New information led authorities to methodically search the 100-acre grid near Lawrenceville on Sunday, Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said. Investigators with Gwinnett, Athens and the FBI Safe Streets task force focused their efforts along an area of Lawrencveille Highway near Clearwater Place.
Near the end of the search, police dogs helped to locate the bodies inside a unit at the Extra Space Storage facility. Homicide investigators rolled up the unit’s garage door, and the two bodies were found. It appears the men died of gunshot wounds, Pihera said.
“Based on the evidence at the scene, we believe that they were shot inside the storage unit,” she said at the news conference.
The two men facing charges in the case were identified Tuesday as Lesley Chappell Green and Robert Maurice Carlisle.
Green, 30, of Stone Mountain, was arrested on two counts of concealing the death of another. He is being held in the Gwinnett County jail, according to police.
Carlisle, 32, of Lithonia, is also wanted on charges of concealing a death but has not been arrested. His whereabouts are unknown.
"It's very possible as this investigation plays out that we might find more people involved, additional suspects, and there is a very strong possibility that Mr. Green and Mr. Carlisle will face additional charges in reference to this criminal investigation," Pihera said.
Murder charges are among the possibilities, she said.
Arrest warrants said the FBI in Atlanta wiretapped phones to learn more about the missing men’s whereabouts, Channel 2 Action News reported. Agents said both suspects talked about the investigation, and Carlisle spoke about getting rid of the bodies, the news station reported.
While detectives have linked the investigation to the Gangster Disciples, Saulters declined to say what, if any, affiliation the suspects or the victims have to the criminal organization.
Authorities don’t know how the storage facility, the victims and the suspects are connected. The unit’s renters have been cooperative with the investigation, according to police.
Saulters said investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies worked tirelessly on the case over the past few months. His department put all their resources toward finding Jackson and Ruff.
“The families are devastated,” he said. “They went through Christmas and birthdays ... concerned about their family member.
“We were hoping for a better result where we located them alive.”
Athens-Clarke County police will continue to assist Gwinnett in the ongoing investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Gwinnett detectives at 770-513-5300. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.
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