2nd man convicted in 2016 cold case murder, kidnapping of Atlanta man

Facial recognition software helped investigators solve case
Two men have been found guilty in the 2016 kidnapping and killing of an Atlanta father.

Credit: Henri Hollis

Credit: Henri Hollis

Two men have been found guilty in the 2016 kidnapping and killing of an Atlanta father.

A second man was recently found guilty in a harrowing 2016 murder and kidnapping of an Atlanta father. The case had gone cold until 2020, when facial recognition software helped detectives crack the case.

Dontavian Jones, 22, was convicted of killing of Dewenzell Spence, 41, according to District Attorney Flynn D. Broady Jr. His co-defendant, Terrance Marshall, was convicted earlier this year.

“What happened here is what we want to believe only happens in scary movies,” Senior Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Green said in a statement. “I cannot imagine the fear he (Spence) suffered in the last hours of his life.”

On June 3, 2016, Spence’s “highly decomposed” body was found in some woods on private property along Queens Mill Road in Mableton, officials said. It was not clear what day Spence died, but prosecutors said those who knew him became concerned when he did not use his MARTA card or show up for work at Hormel Foods on May 31.

Detectives then looked at Spence’s bank account and discovered that he’d made two withdrawals from a Mableton area ATM amounting to $50, authorities said. Surveillance footage from the ATM showed him standing there for about seven minutes with two men and a white van in the background, according to prosecutors. One of the men had on a mask and a shirt over his head, while the other made no effort to conceal his identity.

Still, investigators were unable to produce any leads. It wasn’t until 2020 that facial recognition software was used to uncover the identity of the unmasked suspect.

It worked, returning a match to Marshall, the DA’s office said.

That information led detectives to an Alabama arrest report from June 1, 2016. In that case, Marshall was accused of driving a white van — similar to the one seen in the ATM security footage — and engaging in a high-speed chase with police, officials said. Jones was also involved in the pursuit, which ended with the van exploding, according to prosecutors.

Both suspects were then arrested on charges relating to Spence’s slaying.

It was later discovered that Marshall, 19 at the time, had helped Jones, then 14, to flee his hometown of Cochran — about 45 minutes south of Macon — due to an outstanding murder warrant that had been filed on May 25, 2016, authorities said. At some point, the duo made it to Atlanta, where they intercepted Spence as he walked along Hank Aaron Boulevard.

“Mr. Spence was walking to work when he was approached by two teenage strangers, forced to walk several blocks with a shotgun to the back of his head, pushed into a van, taken to an ATM, and driven to foreign woods where he was executed,” Green said.

On June 14, a Cobb County jury found Jones guilty of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm.

Marshall was convicted in January and was sentenced to life in prison. Jones will be sentenced July 15.

“I hope these men never see the light of day for what they did to this innocent, hard-working father,” Green said.