Charles Richey, standing at right, in a previous court hearing.

MARTA rider accused of stabbing panhandler to death pleads not guilty

Charles Richey, the MARTA rider accused of stabbing a beggar dead on a train, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Richey waived a formal arraignment and entered his plea Monday in DeKalb County Superior Court, according to the district attorney’s office.

Damilola Azuana, 41, was stabbed “numerous times,” as the train pulled into the Avondale station on Jan. 24 around 8:15 p.m., police have said. 

The victim asked Richey for money, prompting Richey, 49, of Atlanta, to mock him, according to police.

“Richey said he told (the man) he needed to get a job and earn his own money,” an officer wrote in a report. Richey told him he works too hard to give away money.

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He taunted Azuana lewdly, asking if, despite his appearance as a man, he had a vagina, a detective testified in a previous hearing.

Security camera footage allegedly showed Richey following Azuana and grabbing him, leading to a scuffle. Azuana pinned Richey on a seat, at which point Richey drew a knife and stabbed him, police said.

Richey, who later surrendered, has been in jail without bond since January. 

The death was one of five homicides worked by MARTA police this past fiscal year, a highly unusual spate. The previous four years saw zero homicides in the system’s jurisdiction. 

Still, officials point out that arrests have been made in all five homicides. They also tout a 27 percent decrease in serious crime in the past five years, attributing the improvement largely to the presence of a 10,000-camera security system and the suspensions of problem riders.

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The county hopes the cleaning will lead to fewer sewage spills and more money for the economy.

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