Bibb grand jury indicts men in store slaying

A Bibb County grand jury indicted three men on murder charges Tuesday in connection with a 2009 fatal shooting at a Riverside Drive convenience store.

Maurice Murray Battle, 18, Rashard Jeran Harris, 25, and Korey A. Stephens, 25, are charged with malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and two counts of aggravated assault, according to the indictment.

The men are accused of robbing and fatally shooting 29-year-old Dipak “Danny” Patel, who worked as a clerk at the Chevron station at 1257 Riverside Drive.

Two men, Battle and Harris, are accused of entering the store Aug. 30 and demanding money from Patel. Police have said Battle was the one who shot Patel, and that Stephens was the getaway driver.

Battle, of Crest Drive, is being held at the Bibb County jail on $550,200 bond. Harris, of Zana Drive, is being held without bond. Stephens, of Crest Drive, is being held on $165,000 bond, according to jail records.

Also indicted Tuesday were:

— Kenneth Stokes, 43, of Houston Avenue, on two counts of murder and two counts of felony murder in the deaths of 27-year-old Melody Marie Benoit and her boyfriend, 34-year-old Kelvin Prater.

One of Benoit’s small children found Benoit and Prater in bed at her home, 2463 Vivian Drive, with multiple gunshot wounds May 3, 2009.

Stokes is being held at the Bibb County jail without bond.

— Ernest Braswell III, 58, of Lochwold Drive, on charges of aggravated child molestation and rape. Braswell is charged with raping and sexually molesting a 7-year-old girl between Aug. 1, 2009, and Jan. 3, 2010.

Braswell, a former Bibb County school bus driver, was released from the Bibb County jail on $5,700 bond Jan. 7, according to jail records.

— Heather Gawlick, 21, of Desoto Place, on three counts of first-degree child cruelty and one count of second-degree child cruelty.

Gawlick is accused of causing a 4-week-old girl excessive pain by bruising her face and fracturing her leg July 6, 2009, among other injuries.

She also failed to obtain medical treatment for the child, according to the indictment.

Macon police have said Gawlick told officers she dropped the child, but she waited days before seeking medical attention. Gawlick is being held at the Bibb County jail on $2,950 bond.

— Sharonda Monique Kelly, 28, of Shadow Lawn Drive, on charges of aggravated assault on a peace officer and eluding police.

Kelly is accused of assaulting a Medical Center Police Department officer Oct. 28, 2009, by striking him with a car and dragging him with a vehicle. She also is accused of failing to stop after being signaled by another police officer.

She was released from the Bibb County jail Nov. 16, 2009, on $33,200 bond.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.