2 found guilty of murdering woman in case of mistaken identity

Two gang members were found guilty of murder Wednesday in the 2016 death of Shanna Smith, a 24-year-old woman shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Matthew Larkins, 37, and Travon Mack, 27, were among a group of five men who opened fire into Smith’s vehicle on Aug. 4 in retaliation for the shooting of a fellow gang member the previous day, according to Fulton County prosecutors. She died of a single gunshot wound to the side of her head.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Smith, however, was not involved in the earlier shooting, which was believed to be the result of rival gang warfare, District Attorney Paul Howard said. She just happened to be driving a vehicle similar to the gunman’s and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Gang violence has no logical boundaries,” Howard said in a statement. “It touches gang members, their families, and as we witnessed in this case, innocent victims. During this incident, an innocent woman, not connected with any gang or criminal activity, was shot down while driving her own vehicle on her way home from work, simply because a group of gang members misidentified her car.”

On the night of her death, Smith agreed to drive a coworker home to Hadlock Street in southwest Atlanta after they finished their shift at the Amazon warehouse in Union City, prosecutors said in a news release. After dropping off her coworker, Smith pulled away in her dark-colored BMW.

RELATED: Woman shot in head while driving

She did not make it very far. Atlanta police found her slumped behind the wheel of her bullet-riddled vehicle in a ditch near Leslie Avenue. The BMW was wedged between shrubs and trees with its wheels still spinning, AJC.com previously reported.

MORE: Photo released of woman shot and killed driving

“Detectives also discovered 43 shell casings, the majority of which were fired from two AR-15 rifles, a .380 caliber firearm, a .45 caliber firearm, a 9 mm firearm, and a .25 caliber firearm,” a spokesman for Howard said.

None of the suspects remained on the scene, but investigators found a cellphone they linked back to 27-year-old Dejon Fuller. He was tracked down and ultimately implicated Larkins, Mack and two other men, prosecutors said. His story was corroborated by cellphone records.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Larkins, who was convicted in a 2010 drug case out of Clayton County, and Mack, who also had a prior conviction for burglary out of Clayton County in 2011, were tried and found guilty Wednesday. A jury convicted them of murder, participation in a criminal street gang, aggravated assault, damage to property and weapons crimes in connection with Smith’s death.

Another co-defendant, 25-year-old Richard Ash, was tried at the same time but the jury hung on his case. He will be tried again at a later date, prosecutors said.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

The two remaining defendants are not likely to go to trial. Fuller testified on behalf of the state and is likely to take a plea deal, and 28-year-old Darien Sherry is in a coma at Grady Memorial Hospital after an unrelated accident. Authorities do not expect Sherry to survive.

RELATED: Arrest made in 7-month-old murder case

Larkins and Mack are set to be sentenced Monday.

“This case is so reminiscent of the death of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ nephew, Darius; we are alarmed at the similarities,” Howard said. “As we did with the Bottoms case, we again urge members of our community to fight this proliferation of gang activity with all of the intensity and vigor we can muster.”

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