3 men convicted in connection with 2012 death of rapper ‘Lil Phat’

A 25-year-old man was convicted Friday of killing 19-year-old Melvin Vernell III, an emerging local rapper known as “Lil Phat,” in June 2012. Two other men were also found guilty for their roles in the case.

Deandre Washington was convicted of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit a crime, participation in criminal street gang activity and weapons offenses in a Fulton County court after an almost month-long trial. Following the verdict, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 20 years, according to a news release from the office of Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard.

Two other men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime and gang activity. Gary Bradford, 35, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Maurice Conner, 29, who was also found guilty of weapons offenses, was sentenced to 30 years.

Vernell was killed on June 7, 2012, as he walked to his car in a parking lot at Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs. He was at the hospital awaiting the birth of his child, according to the release. Washington, Bradford and Conner planned to kill the rapper in retaliation for a previous drug robbery and the trio sought him out at the hospital, where he was shot at close range multiple times, authorities said. He died in his car.

A fourth person charged in association with Vernell’s death, Mani Chulpayev, an alleged Russian mobster, is still awaiting trial, according to the release.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.