Fifteen-year-old Caziah Brown leaned against the defendant’s table in Gwinnett County Magistrate Court on Wednesday afternoon, arms tucked into a large grey sweatshirt as tired eyes peered out from behind dangling braids.
The teen alternately yawned, listened intently and peeked at family seated nearby as a homicide detective laid out the details of the murder case against him: counterfeit money, marijuana, a man dying in a daycare parking lot.
“He’d planned to rob the victim … and it went bad, and he had to ‘blow him (away),’” detective Patrick Watson said, relaying a conversation Brown allegedly had with a friend.
“And he just blew him in the chest.”
Police believe that, on Dec. 17, Brown met 21-year-old Curtis Oldham on a residential street off Lilburn’s Killian Hill Road. Oldham, and his accompanying girlfriend, apparently believed he would be selling marijuana to Brown.
What exactly happened remains unclear. But Oldham’s girlfriend told authorities that, at some point, 15-year--old Brown stuck his hand inside her car, dropped a counterfeit $100 bill and fired a single gunshot through the window.
The girlfriend drove off, stopping at a nearby daycare to bang on the door and ask for help. Someone there called 911, and police arrived to find Oldham bleeding in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s car.
He later died at Eastside Medical Center.
Watson testified during Wednesday’s hearing that Brown later admitted to two friends that he’d shot somebody and “needed to leave town.” Brown and three other teenagers allegedly robbed a pizza driver later the same night after summoning him to a vacant house.
The pizza driver's Buick — believed to have been stolen as Brown's possible getaway vehicle — was spotted in the same area the next day, and all four teens were eventually arrested. Brown was apprehended after a SWAT situation at his grandmother's house on Lockshyre Way near Lawrenceville.
A palm print found on the victim’s girlfriend’s car matched Brown’s, Watson said. The teen is the only suspect charged in Oldham’s death and, despite his age, he has been charged as an adult.
At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Blum bound over to superior court all charges filed against Brown. They include murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and theft by taking.
It was unclear if Oldham actually had any marijuana to sell on the day he was killed, Watson testified. In a statement previously released to the media, Oldham’s family called him “a bright, intelligent and beautiful soul with plans to enter the Navy.”
“We ask for privacy as we mourn, but we do hope our tragedy can in some way bring awareness to the senseless gun violence plaguing our country and ripping our children from our arms,” the statement said.