One of the nine alleged gang members accused in the 2016 shooting deaths of two children as they slept in their Clayton County home was convicted Friday and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus 22 years.
Jamon Bynum, 28, was one of several men who stormed the Libby Lane home the evening of Oct. 22, shooting 11-year-old Tatiyana Coates and her brother, 15-year-old Daveon Coates, in their beds, authorities said.
Clayton County police believe the gang targeted another teen, Deundre Mitchell, who they suspected of stealing weapons from a DeKalb County apartment. Mitchell, who is from Chattanooga, also faces murder charges.
“They likely thought Deundre was one of the children in the bed,” Clayton County police Chief Kevin Roberts said at a news conference announcing indictments in the case last year. “But (Tatiyana and Daveon) could not have known the harm that was coming their way.”
Bynum is the first suspect to go to trial in the case. Some of his co-defendants have already pleaded guilty, while others are still awaiting trial, prosecutors said.
Bynum was convicted on 43 counts, and the jury deliberated for just 20 minutes before returning the guilty verdicts, said Chris Sperry, Clayton’s deputy chief assistant district attorney, who prosecuted the case.
Others charged in the killings were: Vernon Jerome Beamon of Decatur; Melvin Allen Crockett of Forest Park; Devin Dunson of Decatur; Jamar Rashaad Mitchell of Decatur; Sterlin Obche Pate of Decatur; Christopher Leonard Spencer of Decatur; and Michael De’Sean White of Stone Mountain.
Charges were dropped against another suspect who was initially indicted.
All of the men charged are believed to be members of the Rollin 20s Crips gang, police said, and some have been linked to other brutal murders in the Atlanta area.
Spencer and Beamon were convicted in the double murder of a DeKalb couple found shot to death in their home with their hands and feet bound about week after the Clayton killings. Investigators believe the couple was targeted so their killers could steal enough money to skip town.
White, one of the men charged in the children’s deaths, is a former DeKalb County elementary school teacher. He was arrested at Decatur’s Toney Elementary during the investigation and led out of his classroom in handcuffs.
Investigators were shocked to discover one of their child murder suspects was teaching children.
“We were absolutely flabbergasted to come to the realization that we had a fifth-grade teacher in a public school teaching children, to be part of this,” Clayton police Detective Stefan Schindler said previously. “That took our breath away.”
During his trial, Bynum took the stand and admitted going inside the home with one of the murder weapons, Sperry said Friday. He also testified White grabbed the gun from him once inside.
Sperry said the gun allegedly used by Bynum was one of two weapons involved in the murder of the Coates siblings. The firearm was discovered 36 hours later in Chattanooga after a “gang shootout” there, prosecutors said.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson called the Coates case one of the saddest she’s ever prosecuted.
“Shooting children who are asleep in their beds, that’s messed up,” Lawson said. “Those children had nothing to do with anything.”
In other news:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.