3 men sentenced to life in prison for gang-related murder in Griffin

Credit: Spalding County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Spalding County Sheriff's Office

4th defendant awaiting trial in 2020 killing, officials say

After one defendant pleaded guilty to a brutal murder at a Griffin apartment home in 2020, two co-defendants were convicted at trial this week, Spalding County officials said.

A fourth defendant is still awaiting trial on charges related to the killing of 26-year-old Jeffery Ryan Deluca, which prosecutors say was motivated by one co-defendant’s desire to join a criminal street gang in Griffin. The three men already found guilty of Deluca’s murder have each been sentenced to life in prison, Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Marie Broder said.

According to Broder, Xavier Carter, 23, planned to commit an armed robbery in July 2020 in order to become a member of the Rolling 20s Neighborhood Bloods. Carter planned the robbery with Damarion Sinkfield, 20, and Robert Freeman III, 29, while 23-year-old Ryan Willis waited in a car and served as their driver, Broder said.

Willis is the lone defendant awaiting trial after Carter and Freeman were both found guilty by a Spalding jury Jan. 31, Broder said. Sinkfield pleaded guilty Jan. 20, just before the trial began, according to court records.

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On July 24, 2020, the four men drove to the Walden Pointe apartments in Griffin, Broder said. Carter was armed with brass knuckles and a gun. Together, Carter, Sinkfield and Freeman went to Deluca’s third-floor apartment and knocked on the door.

When Deluca opened it, he was immediately attacked, Broder said. With his fiancée and their two sons in the apartment, Deluca was shot in the back of the head and killed. The three men fled the apartment and Willis drove them away, according to Broder.

All four were arrested within two days of the killing, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

Carter, Freeman and Sinkfield were all sentenced to life without parole, Broder said. Carter received an additional 25 consecutive years for having a firearm and violating Georgia’s Street Gang Violence and Terrorism Act, while Freeman received an additional 20 years.

According to his obituary, Deluca was born and raised in Griffin and worked as a self-employed contractor. At the time of his death, Deluca was survived by his fiancée and two sons, along with his parents, three brothers, two grandparents, two great-grandparents and many other extended family members.

During the sentencing hearing for Carter and Freeman, Deluca’s fiancée, Taylor Lyons, made a statement to the judge condemning gang activity in the area.

“There is no sentence you can give them that will bring our sweet Ryan back, but we ask you to please take into consideration the safety of the community of Griffin, and surrounding counties, where these gangs are flourishing. Let’s not let Ryan die in vain. Let’s do what we can to prevent the suffering and evil criminal street gangs inflict on the community,” Lyons said.