Aeman Presley leaves DeKalb court on May 27, 2015. He eventually confessed to the murders of Karen Pearce and Calvin Gholston in that county. (Ben Gray / AJC file)
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

How the AJC covered the Tommy Mims case from "ATL Homicide"

From the archives: Failed actor Aeman Presley returned to Atlanta and began killing spree

The Tommy Mims murder case was the subject of the twelfth episode of the true-crime series "ATL Homicide" on TV One. Mims was one of four people killed across Fulton and DeKalb counties by Aeman Presley over a four-month period. Presley was a failed actor who moved to Atlanta and started his killing spree.

"ATL Homicide" recreates cases as told by David Quinn and Vince Velazquez, two retired Atlanta Police Department homicide detectives. Quinn has called the show "like an APD greatest hits LP for us." 

See the AJC's coverage of previous episodes: Tereon Grant | Alan Watson | Shaquilla Weatherspoon | John Ray | Sparkle Rai | Jerry Heard | Willie Bell | Cassandra Bryant | Antwan Curry | Apriel Allen | Mamadou Barry 

Here are some of the key articles from the Aeman Presley serial killings as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution covered them. 

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From Nov. 28, 2014: 

Two homeless men killed while sleeping 

Police say incidents likely happened late at night. 

By Nicholas Fouriezos 

The shooting deaths of two homeless men in Atlanta this week has local authorities asking for any evidence that could be used to identify the killer. 

Tommy Mims, also known as "Can Man," was found partially wrapped in a blanket and shot dead Wednesday morning on Whitehall Street near Northside Drive. On Sunday, a homeless man in his mid-40s was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a small park at the intersection of Courtland Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard. 

Tommy Mims, who was homeless, was shot dead on Nov. 26, 2014 while sleeping on Whitehall Street.
Photo: HANDOUT

An Atlanta Police Department spokesman said investigators believe both shootings happened late at night and while the victims were asleep. 

"We're very concerned about the similarities," said Capt. Paul Guerrucci, commander of the APD Homicide Unit. "It appears that we have somebody who is targeting people that are sleeping at night." 

The department is working with local homeless organizations and the media to spread the word and encourage homeless individuals to travel in pairs. Police are also offering up to a $2,000 reward for information concerning the slaying of Mims. 

"Right now, the buddy system is key amongst our homeless brothers and sisters. We want to make sure they look out for each other," Investigator David Quinn said. 

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From Dec. 12, 2014: 

Homeless killings connected 

Police arrest 'person of interest' in brutal crimes 3 days apart. 

By Christian Boone 

They were veterans of Atlanta's streets, known within the homeless community by their monikers. 

"They didn't bother anyone," Brandon Milam said of Dorian "Sidewinder" Jenkins and Tommy "Can Man" Mims, who were fatally shot three days apart as they slept, within three miles of each other. "They pretty much stuck to themselves." 

That as much as anything, it appears, made them vulnerable to a killer who might be preying on Atlanta's homeless. Channel 2 Action News reported late Thursday that MARTA police arrested a "person of interest," classified in that manner due to the weapon and ammunition in his possession. 

Dorian Jenkins, who was homeless, was found dead at the intersection of Courtland Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard on Nov. 23, 2014.
Photo: HANDOUT

"Our homicide investigators were contacted and are following up," Atlanta police spokesman John Chafee told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

At a news conference Wednesday, APD Homicide Detective David Quinn said the victims were shot by identical types of bullets that were last manufactured in 2010. Police believe the firearm used was either a Taurus "Judge" or a Smith & Wesson "Governor" — .45-caliber and .410-caliber revolvers. 

Jenkins, who earned the nickname "Sidewinder" because he dragged his foot, was found dead four days before Thanksgiving at the intersection of Courtland Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard. He was wrapped in blankets, concealing the five bullets pumped into his body at close range. 

Mims — whose body was discovered Nov. 26 near a recycling center on Whitehall Street, where he took the cans he collected — was shot seven times, a detail that investigators find particularly sinister. 

"These guns have a capacity of five or six rounds. In Tommy Mims' case, someone had to reload the gun in order to get seven rounds in him," Quinn said Wednesday. 

Neither investigators nor the homeless community believe the men were specifically targeted. Milam, who's been on the streets since 2008, said they steered clear of trouble and drugs. 

"They were cool dudes," Milam said. It's unknown whether the men knew each other. 

Sometimes they'd spend the night at the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless shelter on Peachtree and Pine streets. 

Jenkins, in particular, had become a familiar face in recent months, task force director Anita Beaty said. 

Police know little about the killer, aside from the weapon used. Two witnesses provided a similar description of a person wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt. Investigators are hopeful there may be additional witnesses, those who haven't come forward because they are too afraid. 

"Due to the fact these murders occurred in public places, that is a possibility," Atlanta Police Sgt. Gregory Lyon said Thursday. "We need the public's help." 

Meanwhile, law enforcement is urging the homeless to travel in pairs and have enlisted local shelters to help spread the word. 

"The men we house are really worried for their friends on the outside," said Katie Bashor, director of the Central Night Shelter on Washington Street, across the street from the state Capitol. 

"There's a segment of the homeless who just refuse to come to the shelters. Unfortunately, a lot of them are mentally ill." 

Those who have been on the street the longest — men like Jenkins and Mims — are often the toughest to reach, Beaty said. 

"The less they identify as homeless, the more seriously they take it," she said. 

Jenkins, from New York, had no known family in the Atlanta area, police said. 

Mims has relatives in south Atlanta, Quinn said, though he usually only visits on Thanksgiving. 

"I had to go there Thanksgiving Eve and make that notification," Quinn said. "They were waiting on him to show up." 

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Aeman Lovel Presley was arrested on Dec. 11, 2014 for the fatal shootings of two Atlanta homeless men. He would eventually confess to those as well as two other killings in DeKalb County. (Fulton County Detention Center)
Photo: Fulton County Detention Center

From Dec. 16, 2014: 

Fourth victim in serial killings? 

Facebook diatribe exposed a dark side. 

By Christian Boone 

On the next to last day of 2013, Aeman Presley posted something atypical on his Facebook page, otherwise filled with selfies, head shots and banal pronouncements about his day-to-day existence as a struggling actor in Los Angeles. 

In a rambling polemic, filled with grammatical and punctuation errors that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is printing as is, the 34-year-old suspected serial killer declared, "We are all gods capable of good and evil ... and can do whatever we want on Earth. Whether it be good or evil because thats the divine right we were given." 

Investigators say Presley chose the dark side. He has been charged in the deaths of two homeless men and a Cobb hairstylist. He also will be charged in the Sept. 27 shooting of 54-year-old Calvin Gholston in a breezeway at Spring Mill Village shopping center on Memorial Drive in unincorporated Decatur, Channel 2 Action News reported Monday, citing law enforcement sources. 

The victims he's alleged to have chosen were particularly vulnerable. Gholston's killer likely didn't know that he suffered from schizophrenia, but the others had little or no opportunity to defend themselves. Dorian Jenkins and Tommy Mims were asleep on Atlanta's streets when they were killed within three days of each other during Thanksgiving week. Karen Pearce, described as petite and unfailingly polite, was confronted and shot while walking alone to her car in downtown Decatur on Dec. 6 after a dinner date with friends. 

Terms like "sinister" and "brutal" were used by investigators to describe the slayings. Mims, for example, was shot seven times with a revolver that has a capacity of no more than six rounds. 

"Someone had to reload the gun in order to get seven rounds in him," Atlanta Police Homicide Detective David Quinn said at a press conference last week. 

On the surface, there's little beyond a 2003 conviction in Rockdale County for terroristic threats and criminal damage to suggest Presley's transformation into the soulless killer he's accused of being. Until recently, the father of two resided in Los Angeles, where he moved in 2010 to pursue his dream of acting. 

"I just realized this weekend while I was swimming at Venice beach that im here and in life im HAPPY!!!" he wrote in 2010. "Thats all that matters at the end of the day." 

While still in Atlanta, the Stone Mountain High School graduate was represented by the Houghton Talent Agency, which on Monday declined comment. Presley appeared in two locally shot, low-budget urban action movies, "Exit" and "Rules." 

The director of both films, Taveras Wilson, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email that Presley was merely a "background performer/extra at best," adding, "I did not know him personally nor can I recall very much of him from those movies." 

Once in Los Angeles, Presley had little luck breaking into show business, though last year he wrote that he was "relaxing in my life nowaday cooling down calming down and collecting mysef after going threw all the changes and growing pains that Ive been through as a younger black man. Im also getting my money right for once and for all." He used some of that money to sign up for acting classes at the Margie Haber Studio in Beverly Hills. 

"So many Bad actresses in my acting class in Beverly Hills!!! Hope to meet my future wifey. Lol," he wrote on Facebook in January. 

A representative from the studio said instructors there did not remember Presley offhand. 

Work was scarce, and Presley didn't appear to be choosy about roles. 

In a caption accompanying one of his headshots on Facebook, he wrote, "Its for badboy parts. A lotta people luv it. Everybody might not be feelin it. They problem not mine. Long as these people in Hollywood buy It. And buy me. And cut a check." 

But money was running low, Presley confessed in one exchange. If he had a social life, he never wrote about it, instead posing for dozens of selfies that showed him smoking marijuana or drinking. 

One of the last photos he posted, on Jan. 9, included this eeriest of captions: "Killer." 

He would not post again until Aug. 27. It was another selfie of Presley, looking grim, his head cocked, wearing a dark shirt with what appears to be a black hoodie — similar to what witnesses to the shootings of Mims and Jenkins told police the perpetrator was wearing. 

"Where have u been what u been up to?" asked one friend who had once regularly corresponded with Presley. He did not respond. 

Exactly one month later, according to police, he claimed his first victim. 

Thursday, he was arrested by MARTA police at the Georgia State rail station after attempting to jump the fare gates without paying. A loaded revolver and a box of ammunition were found on him matching the weapon police believe was used in the shooting of the two homeless men. 

Presley is being held without bond at the Fulton County Jail. Atlanta police have thus far declined comment. 

SUSPECTED SERIAL KILLER 

Police say gun evidence links Aeman Presley, 34, to three shooting deaths since late November. He could be a suspect in a fourth death. Below is a timeline of the alleged crimes. 

Nov. 23: Dorian Jenkins, 42, who earned the nickname "Sidewinder" because he dragged his foot, was found dead four days before Thanksgiving at the intersection of Courtland Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard in Atlanta. He was wrapped in blankets, concealing the five bullets pumped into his body at close range. 

Nov. 26: Tommy Mims, 68, also known as "Can Man," was discovered shot to death near a recycling center on Whitehall Street in Atlanta. Mims was shot seven times. He earned his nickname from collecting and recycling cans. 

Dec. 6: Karen Pearce, 44, was found shot to death behind One Decatur Town Center in downtown Decatur. The Smyrna hairdresser's body was discovered after witnesses heard gunshots. 

A FOURTH SHOOTING 

Sept. 27: Calvin Gholston, 54, was found shot to death in a breezeway at the Spring Mill Village shopping center on Memorial Drive in unincorporated Decatur. Channel 2 Action News reported Monday that police were set to charge Presley in that killing. 

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From Jan. 7, 2015: 

Police: Killer of homeless has confessed 

4 Metro Atlantans dead; man had become homeless himself. 

By Christian Boone

Christa Norris drove more than three hours from her home in Huntsville, Ala., to see the man police say has confessed to killing her best friend. 

"I wanted to see how big he was, what his voice sounded like," said Norris, referring to Aeman Presley, who was scheduled to appear Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court. "I wanted to personalize what she thought when she saw him." 

Norris didn't get the chance. Presley — who police say has admitted to killing four metro Atlantans, including Norris' friend Karen Pearce, between late September and early December — waived his preliminary hearing. 

Colleagues of Karen Pearce wrote this post on True Salon's Facebook page after Pearce's murder in downtown Decatur on Dec. 6, 2014.
Photo: Facebook/Facebook

Norris and another friend had dinner with Pearce, a Smyrna hairstylist, on the night she died. Pearce left Leon's in Decatur first, while her other friends decided to stay for a drink. 

On the way to her car, police say, she met Presley, 34, who fatally shot her in a dark parking lot. 

The out-of-work actor was arrested less than a week later after trying to board a MARTA train without paying fare. Police say they found a match for the firearm allegedly used to kill Pearce and three homeless men. 

The first killing was planned in advance, investigators say. Calvin Gholston, 53, was living in an alleyway near a shopping center on Memorial Drive for two months before his bullet-ridden body was found on Sept. 27, according to DeKalb County police. Presley allegedly cased the shopping center, determining when all the stores closed. 

During Thanksgiving week, he allegedly shot Dorian Jenkins, 42, and Tommy Mims, 68, multiple times as they slept on Atlanta's streets, wrapped in blankets. Pearce was killed Dec. 7. 

Detectives told Norris the alleged serial killer showed remorse only for Pearce's slaying. 

Retired FBI criminal profiler Gregg McCrary told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it's possible Presley, who had become homeless himself, resented his other victims. 

"The killings fuel the fantasy that at least I'm a somebody," McCrary said in an interview last month. "They've gone from being losers to being gods." 

The investigation into Presley continues, Atlanta Police Detective David Quinn said Tuesday. Police in Los Angeles, where he lived until May, told Quinn they have found no similar crimes that might point to Presley. 

A grand jury will hear the case at an unspecified future date, said Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Michael Sprinkel. 

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Aeman Presley is taken into custody on June 13, 2015 following his guilty plea in DeKalb County Court to the deaths of two homeless men in 2014, and the murder of a woman he robbed. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

From Dec. 20, 2016: 

Serial killer is given more time to consider plea deal 

Presley may seek jury verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. 

By Christian Boone 

It was to be Aeman Presley's last moment in the spotlight, and he dressed for the occasion, shedding an orange for a charcoal suit. 

The failed actor, who moved back to Atlanta from Los Angeles in late 2014 and embarked on a killing spree that claimed the lives of a Smyrna hairdresser and three homeless men, was expected to plead guilty but mentally ill on Monday in Fulton County Superior Court to two of those murders, avoiding a possible death sentence. 

Presley had accepted a similar plea deal six months ago in DeKalb County, acknowledging he fatally shot 53-year-old Calvin Gholston in September 2014 at a Memorial Drive shopping center and 44-year-old Karen Pearce as she was walking to her car in downtown Decatur. He was sentenced to consecutive life sentences without parole and was facing a third such penalty had he not backed out of the agreement at the last minute. 

"That question is still going on in my mind," Presley, 36, told Fulton Superior Court Judge John Goger during Monday's hearing. Had he accepted the deal Presley would've been returned to prison for good. 

Presley then asked the judge if a jury could find him not guilty by reason of insanity. When told they could, he requested more time to speak with his attorneys. 

Goger agreed to continue the case for a month so Presley could reconsider all of his options. 

"Mr. Presley's lifelong struggle with mental illness is certainly a factor and we anticipate that he will have a decision for the court within the month," defense co-counsel Jerilyn Bell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Bell has said that she believes Presley, a father of two, is schizophrenic. 

The Chicago native, who moved with his mother to Stone Mountain just before starting high school, is charged with six murder counts and 13 felonies in connection to the deaths of Dorian Jenkins, 42, and Tommy Mims, 68, shot within one November week as they slept on Atlanta's streets. 

Jenkins, who earned the nickname "Sidewinder" because he dragged his foot, was found dead four days before Thanksgiving at the intersection of Courtland Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard. He was wrapped in blankets, concealing the five bullets pumped into his body at close range. Mims -- whose body was discovered Nov. 26 near a recycling center on Whitehall Street, where he took the cans he collected -- was shot seven times. The two homeless men were shot with elongated .45-caliber bullets that were last manufactured in 2010. 

When Presley was detained after trying to dodge the fare at a downtown Atlanta MARTA station, he was carrying a silver Taurus .45 Colt revolver, fully loaded with five hollow point rounds, and a box containing 27 additional rounds. Before his sentencing in DeKalb, Presley insisted he was not a serial killer. "I'm a brother that had some really serious issues..." he said in June. "What I did was ungodly, unrighteous, dishonorable and plain wrong." 

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In 1995, AJC reporter Charles Walston interviewed Aeman Presley as a high schooler for an article on gangs. This is an excerpt: 

... 

Aeman Presley, a 10th-grader at Stone Mountain High School, joined the Folks gang in fifth-grade in Chicago before he and his mother moved here. 

"I knew it was something I wasn't supposed to be doing," said Presley, who is now trying to avoid gangs. He said he was drawn to the gang for friendship and protection. 

The fact that his father did not live with him might have been a factor in his gang involvement, Presley said. "I wouldn't go out on the street feeling sorry for myself because I didn't have a father," he said. "But it seems to me that for most kids without a father, older guys almost became a role model." 

Presley said he took part in fights with rival gangs and had some friends who were killed in gang conflicts. "I've never killed nobody, but a few of the guys I hung with might have," he said. "We shot at some people." 

He says gangsta rap music "desensitizes people" to violence and inspires gang members to commit crimes. "Everybody knows it, they may not admit it," he said. "Rap music is bought to pump 'em up. 

"The sounds are beautiful. It's just the words they put to it. It's like a nightmare put to music." 

Presley said he "grew out" of his desire to be in a gang. 

...

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