4 indicted in Atlanta lounge murder

A quartet of alleged gang members and bandits was indicted last week by a Fulton County grand jury in connection with the August shooting death of a west Atlanta lounge owner.

Gerald Peterson, Ottis Ricks, DeMario Carman and Christopher Penson were each charged with murder, criminal gang activity, gun possession while committing a felony, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Each man has also been charged with five counts of felony murder, or causing someone’s death while committing a felony.

Vanessa Elaine Thrasher was shot seven times in the early hours of Aug. 16, as she tried to ward off the four who came into O.T.’s Lounge and Grill on Joseph E. Boone Boulevard to rob her, investigators said.

Thrasher, 53, was days away from testifying in a 2011 murder trial in which a security guard was shot and killed outside her restaurant.

Although investigators have found no link between the two shootings, prosecutors haven’t ruled out a connection.

“The state is not satisfied that this case may not be related to that other case,” Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Jack Barrs said during a September probable cause hearing for Carman and Ricks. “There was no reason for this woman to die.”

Thrasher shot Carman in the arm during the robbery, even as she was succumbing to gunfire from him and Ricks, investigators said.

A combination of DNA sampling from Carman’s blood, video footage from surveillance cameras at the restaurant and tipsters responding to Crime Stoppers Atlanta helped to capture the three men.

The four 23-year-olds are alleged members of the so-called Campbellton Road Gangsters; at least one of them was filmed during the robbery attempt wearing clothing showing the letters C.R.G.

Ricks was arrested first, followed by Carman, who went to a Clayton County hospital to be treated for his gunshot wound and was found in possession of Thrasher’s ID, police said.

Peterson was recognized by an off-duty policeman working at a south Fulton County nightclub in early October and arrested.

And the elusive Penson – investigators initially could only identify him as “C.J.” – was taken into custody shortly after Peterson’s arrest, authorities said.

O.T.’s had been in Thrasher’s family for more than 40 years and was a staple in the west Atlanta community, family and friends said.

All four remain in the Fulton County jail without bond as they await trial.

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