Before he was shot to death inside his home, a Gwinnett County 14-year-old was either restrained or tied up and left in the kitchen to die.
Grayson High School freshman Paul Sampleton Jr. probably had been home a matter of minutes before he faced his killer, according to a police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. Paul’s father, who lives in Lithonia, found his son sometime after noon Wednesday, according to police.
The teenager was dead by the time emergency responders arrived.
A fellow Grayson freshman said he and his sixth period classmates were thrilled when the final exam ended Wednesday morning. It was officially time for the holiday break.
Abiodun Anifowoshe, 15, told The AJC he saw his friend Paul after the final bell rang.
“He was smiling, listening to music,” Abiodun said. “He got on his bus, I got on mine. We were all happy.”
Within hours, Paul would be found dead, the victim of a homicide that Gwinnett County believe started as a robbery at the teen’s home. Investigators did not release information regarding what they believe was stolen.
Investigators were called to a townhome in the 2700 block of Haynescrest Drive, off U.S. 78, around 2:40 p.m., Cpl. Jake Smith with Gwinnett police said.
Police quickly ruled out suicide or an accidental shooting, calling Paul’s death a homicide.
On what should have been a carefree afternoon, the teen’s friends and classmates were shocked to learn of the death of the outgoing, smiling teen who moved to the area before the start of the school year.
“I was shocked,” Manny Perez, a friend of Paul’s, told The AJC. “We’ve had some people die here, but it’s been car wrecks. Never someone purposely kill somebody.”
Paul played on the freshman football team for most of the season and played baseball, according to his friends. But he had one hobby that made him stand out from others.
“He did love his shoes,” Abiodun said. “The new Jordans and Nikes that came out, Paul was always the first to get them.”
Manny said his friend had at least 20 pairs of high-end, high-priced basketball shoes. Paul not only wore them, but sometimes traded them or sold them, his friends said.
Classmates speculated that Paul’s love of shoes could have led to his death. But investigators, who remained at the crime scene Thursday, declined to release details about a motive or any suspects. Police did not say whether or not they believe Paul was specifically targeted.
“It’s just hard to believe it’s Paul,” Abiodun said. “He just loved coming to school, smiling and telling jokes, and making people laugh.”
The investigation continued late Thursday.