Teen sentenced to life without parole for murder of Mexican food store owner

bpurser@macon.comOctober 25, 2012 

PERRY -- A day after he was convicted of killing a Warner Robins Mexican food store owner, 18-year-old Jermontae Moss told the judge deciding his sentence Thursday that he had turned his life around.

Moss said he gave his life to the Lord while in prison and is a new person. He apologized to the family of the 42-year-old business owner, Jose Marin.

But that did not sway Houston County Superior Court Judge George F. Nunn, who sentenced Moss to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus five years.

Moss, of Warner Robins, was convicted of felony murder, attempted armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during a crime and theft by receiving stolen property in the Sept. 22, 2011, slaying.

Nunn said he hoped Moss had given his life to the Lord, but many in jail make that type of profession.

Moss, who was 17 at the time, is accused of attempted murder in a similar armed robbery attempt the previous night in which the victim was shot but lived. Moss was on probation from Juvenile Court when arrested for Marin’s murder.

Nunn said he weighed heavily the fact that in both failed armed robbery attempts, Moss coldheartedly shot the victims.

District Attorney George Hartwig argued passionately for the life sentence without parole -- noting state law prohibited him from seeking the death penalty for a person under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed. The least sentence Moss could have gotten was life with the possibility of parole.

“The mere possibility of Moss at 47 or 48 walking the streets of Houston County is not something we should risk,” Hartwig told the judge.

Fredda Bonds, who was married to Marin for nearly 13 years, said she lost her soul mate and the love of her life when he was slain. She said she also lost the Bowling Drive business, which went into foreclosure. She reopened a downsized store and grill on Watson Boulevard about six months after his death.

She told the judge she feels like she’s in a bad dream from which she cannot wake up.

Herman Marin said the death of his uncle has destroyed the close-knit, large family.

“He was a good man,” Marin said. “He would help anybody.”

Warner Robins police detective Mark Wright and GBI special agent Lee Weathersby told the judge Moss identified himself as a Bloods gang member. Wright said Moss told him that when questioned about the murder. Weathersby said Moss told him that he was a member of the gang when arrested at the Georgia National Fair the previous year for a disorderly conduct incident.

Javier Lara-Moreno, who witnessed the shooting as he and Jose Marin were unloading a crate of tortillas behind Marin’s store, spoke about how he must live with this for the rest of his life and how the Hispanic community as a whole has been touched by the tragedy. He testified during the trial.

Moss’s aunt and attorney pleaded for mercy on his behalf.

His aunt, Sandra Lane, told the judge there were family troubles that may have led Moss away from church and down the wrong path.

Attorney Rodney E. Davis asked the judge to focus on redemption and rehabilitation and to give Moss some possible hope while he’s in prison that one day he might get out.

Davis noted he did some stupid things at 17 for which he hoped no one would condemn him for the rest of his life.

Nunn said he understands about doing stupid things as a teenager but noted that’s not the same as killing someone. He also said everyone has family troubles. But many people with such troubles don’t “end up with a gun in their hand shooting people indiscriminately.”

Nunn said what troubled him the most was the similarities in the Marin murder and the incident the previous night, in which the victim who survived was allegedly shot by Moss for no apparent reason in an attempted robbery in which nothing was stolen. That victim testified during the trial.

“I have a real difficulty with that type of mentality,” Nunn said.

The attempted murder case and two home burglary cases against Moss are pending trial.

Reached by telephone after the sentencing, Bonds said, “I’m just glad it’s over. I feel like we got justice and got a bad person off the streets.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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