3 men get life sentences for gang-related killings in Cherokee County

Credit: Cherokee County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Cherokee County Sheriff's Office

Three men who were found guilty in Cherokee County on nearly 60 charges, including a violent double murder and other gang-related crimes, were sentenced to life in prison this week.

Byron Elrod, 35, Brody Samples, 28, and Jeremy Zellous, 33, each received life sentences Monday, nearly three months after they were found guilty by a Cherokee jury, according to Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney Shannon Wallace.

The case against the three men is based on the killing of two men and a later drive-by shooting that took place in June and July of 2017 in Canton, Wallace said in a news release. The episode began with a street fight involving two groups, after which one group posted a video on social media bragging about winning the fight.

Elrod and Zellous, who Wallace said held leadership positions in the nationwide Bloods gang, perceived the video as disrespectful. Together with Samples, they ambushed and killed two men from the opposing group on Crisler Street: 23-year-old William Randall and 26-year-old Tony Samples, the brother of Brody Samples.

During the ambush, the three men fired more than 70 rounds, spraying nearby churches, homes and cars with bullets, Wallace said. A little more than two weeks later, Elrod committed a drive-by shooting on Crisler Street with the aim of intimidating witnesses in the case.

About nine months after the shootings, 13 people were charged with multiple counts, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. The three men who received life sentences were found guilty of a total of 59 charges, Wallace said.

“In Cherokee County, gang activity, which is a clear and present danger to our community, has continued to increase, with many felony crimes directly related to criminal street gangs,” Wallace said in a statement. “We will continue to fight hard to dismantle gangs and will not allow fear and violence to infiltrate our community and make our neighborhoods unsafe.”

Each of the three men received life sentences with slightly different conditions, Wallace said. Elrod will serve life plus an additional 15 years, followed by 30 years of probation. Brody Samples was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole plus an additional five years. Zellous was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole and an additional 15 years.