Houston County trial nears for 18-year-old accused of killing Mexican store co-owner

bpurser@macon.comOctober 14, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- Fredda Marin Bonds makes the same trek to Atlanta for supplies that her husband did the day he was murdered last year behind what was then Marin Mexican Food Store.

Her husband, Jose Marin, 43, and an employee were unloading crates of tortillas at the Bowling Drive store when a gunman stepped out from the shadows and shot Marin in a botched robbery attempt Sept. 22, 2011. Marin managed to fire three shots as he fell to the ground. He missed.

Bonds has made the trip to Atlanta many times since she took over the store, which she moved to a new location and renamed after a foreclosure forced her to downsize. Marin’s Mexican Food and Grill is located in the Watson Central Shopping Center off Watson Boulevard.

Thursday, with the murder trial of the 18-year-old accused of her husband’s slaying approaching, the trip was harder, she said.

Jermontae Artez Moss of Warner Robins, who was 17 at the time, was picked up by Warner Robins police within 45 minutes of the fatal shooting. He was wearing clothing that matched the description of the shooter. He was also carrying a stolen handgun.

Moss faces trial on charges of murder, armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during a crime, theft by receiving stolen property (in reference to the gun) and carrying a concealed weapon in the Marin slaying. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

“I feel confident justice will be done,” the 55-year-old Bonds said. “I am apprehensive about it coming back up again. I still haven’t gotten over it. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.”

Bonds, who spoke to her husband of nearly 13 years shortly before his death, was subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify. She received a call Thursday afternoon from the victim assistance coordinator who works for the district attorney letting her know that the trial may not start Monday, but may be moved to Oct. 22.

District Attorney George Hartwig said another unrelated case also is scheduled for Monday, which has a witness that only is available to testify that week. If that case moves forward, the Moss trial will move to the following week, he said. Rodney E. Davis, a Warner Robins attorney representing Moss, said he understands a plea deal has been offered in the unrelated case, which if accepted would avert the need for it to go to trial. That would clear the way for the Moss trial to start Monday.

Both attorneys said they are ready for trial, whichever week it starts.

“Moss is going to trial this month whether it’s going to be the first trial week or the second week,” Hartwig said. “I’m ready to go.”

Davis was reluctant to talk about the defense case.

“I really don’t want to get into the facts of the case before the trial starts,” Davis said.

His pretrial motions have attempted to squash statements Moss made to authorities, challenged the police taking the eyewitness employee to view Moss where he was detained by police and questioned the detaining of Moss and his search by police. The search resulted in the recovery of a Taurus .45 caliber handgun, court records show.

The same gun was allegedly used in the Marin murder as well as a shooting the previous night at a nearby mobile home, according to a ballistic report expected to be introduced at trial. Shell casings recovered from each crime scene matched up, according to court records.

Moss faces a separate trial in that Sept. 21, 2011, home invasion.

Hartwig is expected to introduce that incident as evidence -- arguing in pre-trial motions that in both incidents Moss is accused of attempting to rob each victim and then shot each when he didn’t get any money. The other victim, Neftali Corado, who survived after three weeks in the hospital, is on the witness list of those who may be called to testify.

Also, Hartwig had filed a motion to join the cases and try them together. But Hartwig said he withdrew it after learning Davis is only representing Moss in the murder case, and Moss does not yet have an attorney for the other.

Hartwig said he may not call Bonds to testify. Bonds said she’s willing if needed but would rather remain seated in the courtroom as her husband’s representative.

Night of the slaying

Javier Moreno was unloading crates of tortillas with Marin the night his boss was shot in the 10 p.m. robbery attempt. Marin, an immigrant who received U.S. citizenship, died shortly afterward at Houston Medical Center.

“He killed him for nothing,” Moreno, who considered Marin a friend, said the day after the murder. “He didn’t even get nothing.”

Hartwig said Moreno is scheduled to testify at the trial.

Moreno said in a previous interview that he was working in the store office when Marin called at about 9:30 p.m. and said he just pulled up in the white Isuzu commercial food truck with supplies. Moreno finished up in the office and joined Marin to unload the truck at the back of the store.

Moreno said he was inside the truck when an armed man wearing a red bandanna, a black hair net, white T-shirt and black pants came out from behind a shed. Marin was outside at the back of the truck, holding a crate of tortillas Moreno had handed off to him.

“Give me all your money! Give me all your money!” Moreno recalled the gunman shouting.

Marin told him, “We don’t have any money to give you. We’re just unloading the truck.”

As Marin started to set the crate down, the gunman fired one shot, wounding Marin, Moreno said. Marin managed to pull a gun he kept in the back of his pants under his shirt and fired as his attacker fled west toward Carl Vinson Parkway.

Marin fell to the ground. Moreno said Marin’s last words were, “He shot me. Call 911.”

Jury selection is expected whichever Monday the trial begins, with Davis expecting opening statements the next morning. Hartwig expects all evidence from the prosecution and defense to be submitted by Wednesday.

Closing arguments are possible Wednesday but most likely Thursday. Judge George F. Nunn is presiding.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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