Former employee among 2 charged in death of Applebee’s manager

The Applebee’s manager killed outside his Fayetteville restaurant earlier this month likely was targeted for money he didn’t even have.

Fayetteville police announced Wednesday that two men had been charged in the June 7 death of 27-year-old Gregory Smith. Both suspects, 24-year-old Greg Haney Jr. and 25-year-old Ledarius Jawon Jackson, were already in custody elsewhere, Lt. Mike Whitlow said.

Haney didn’t know Smith but was a former employee at the same North Glynn Street Applebee’s where the shooting occurred, Whitlow said. Investigators believe he and Jackson may have targeted Smith in hopes he was carrying a night deposit from the restaurant.

He was not.

“We said it at the beginning: Applebee’s did not take out deposits from the restaurant at night,” Whitlow said. “(Haney) may have thought he knew that money was coming out, but it wasn’t. Which makes this even more heinous and stupid. And senseless.”

Smith was found dead inside his car on the morning he was killed, his fiancee making the discovery after going to the restaurant when he didn't answer his cellphone. Police believe he was killed shortly after locking up the restaurant at about 3 a.m.

Wednesday's charges came about a week after authorities released new surveillance footage showing two men driving behind the restaurant in a Chevrolet Malibu. "Numerous" tips stemming from that footage are what helped crack the case, Whitlow said.

Police believe the Malibu belonged to an “associate” of Haney and Jackson.

Haney, a Jonesboro resident, has been charged with felony murder, malice murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Jackson was charged as a party to the crimes of felony murder, malice murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Whitlow declined to offer more specifics, but said both men were currently “housed at other facilities for security reasons.” They will be brought to Fayette County in the coming days for preliminary hearings.

“These are bad guys. Period,” Whitlow said. “… And we’re not going to take any chances.”

Flanked by other family members at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Smith’s cousin, Jessalyn Dorsey, thanked the authorities involved in apprehending the alleged killers.

Smith, she said, was his parents’ only child, a father to a young girl and an “extraordinary young man.”

“We’ve truly lost a special member of our family,” Dorsey said.