Testimony ties getaway driver to other crimes

PERRY — Albert Rucker Jr. and Leon Stanford were identified by a witness as the men behind an armed robbery in Gwinnett County that occurred three days before another in Warner Robins, according to court testimony Wednesday.

Rucker, 34, of Macon, is on trial in Houston County Superior Court on multiple charges in connection to the Jan. 16, 2008, armed robbery of the Food Lion at 2607 Moody Road.

Rucker was discovered in the Food Lion parking lot in what turned out to be a stolen 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser. Stanford, 38, also known as Charles Thompson, of Macon, was shot and killed inside the grocery store by Warner Robins police.

Gwinnett County police detective Keith Wiggins testified Wednesday that an employee identified both Rucker and Stanford as the robbers in the armed robbery of a Subway on Jan. 13, 2008. Alex Moore, the employee, pointed Rucker out in court as he recounted the armed robbery in which he was tied up, as was a customer who later entered the restaurant. Michelle Romero, the customer, testified that her 2006 PT Cruiser was stolen in the incident.

Rucker testified that he and Stanford had taken a Greyhound bus to Atlanta to go to a strip club but got stranded without money to get back to Macon.

After a series of events, the men ended up walking along a highway in Gwinnett County and came upon Moore smoking a cigarette outside the Subway, Rucker told jurors. Rucker testified that he wanted only to bum a cigarette and use the restroom when he found himself suddenly caught up in an armed robbery that Stanford initiated. He said Stanford told him what to do and even pointed the gun at him.

However, Moore testified that Rucker served as the “lookout” during the Subway armed robbery and that Rucker tied him up with his own shoelaces.

“I wouldn’t say it was an order or command — just tie him up,” Moore testified in response to a defense question related to whether Rucker was forced to participate in the armed robbery.

Rucker also testified that, while traveling from Gwinnett County back to Bibb County in the stolen PT Cruiser, Stanford shared with him all sorts of things he’d been involved in, including killing a Macon man.

“If I’d known all that, I’d never have gone with him to Atlanta,” Rucker told jurors.

Macon police Sgt. Shermaine Jones testified that information Rucker gave him helped Macon police close the case of the murder of Macon businessman Waldo Sheftall, 54. Stanford was identified by Macon police as the man who shot and killed Sheftall on Oct. 10, 2007. The case was closed in 2009.

Rucker testified that Stanford thought Rucker might tell on him for the Subway armed robbery and kept showing up around Rucker, including the day of the Food Lion armed robbery.

Rucker testified that he didn’t want to go with Stanford but that he was afraid for his life and that Stanford had made a veiled threat against Rucker’s sister.

Rucker told jurors he did not know that Stanford intended to rob the Food Lion.

Stanford told him to go inside, buy a soft drink and count people, he said. Rucker told jurors that Stanford told him that he planned to return another night to rob the store with another person.

Rucker testified that he did not count the people and that Stanford was no longer in the car when he returned with his soft drink.

Rucker was originally indicted on 34 counts, including armed robbery, attempted murder, kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter. Judge Edward D. Lukemire, who is presiding over the trial, dismissed one count of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday because the indictment did not spell out the alleged reckless conduct behind the charge.

Testimony concluded Wednesday. Closing arguments from the prosecution and the defense are expected this morning.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.