Macon convenience store slaying trial to begin

It’s been nearly three years since Dipak “Danny” Patel was fatally shot in a robbery at the Chevron station where he worked on Macon’s Riverside Drive at College Street.

Surveillance video shows two men had already taken money from the store and were leaving when one of them fired a shot at Patel, striking him under his arm. The 29-year-old Lizella man died at The Medical Center of Central Georgia less than an hour later.

Maurice Murray Battle, 21, one of three men accused in Patel’s death, is scheduled to go on trial this week for the killing.

Prosecutors previously had sought the death penalty against Battle, but they changed their minds this year after his attorneys handed over new evidence.

Brad Gardner, one of Battle’s lawyers, has said the evidence was related to Battle’s mental health history.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday, and testimony is expected to start Tuesday, Gardner said.

“We look forward to our opportunity to have a trial,” he said.

Battle, of Macon, is being held at the Bibb County jail on $550,200 bond, according to jail records.

Two other Macon men indicted along with Battle in the case have pleaded guilty to armed robbery and other charges in the case.

Korey Stephens, 28, was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison during a July 6 hearing. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Stephens also must serve 25 years on probation after he’s released, according to Bibb County Superior Court records.

Rashard Jeran Harris, 27, was sentenced to 20 years in prison July 3 after he pleaded guilty to armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He also must serve five years on probation, according to the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office.

Sentences for Stephens and Harris could be reduced if they cooperate with prosecutors and testify during Battle’s trial. The prison portion of Stephens’ sentence could be reduced to 18 years and Harris’ could be cut to 15 years, prosecutor Sandra Matson said.

Witnesses -- a female clerk and two customers -- have told police that two men dressed in black walked into the store about 10 p.m. Aug. 30, 2009. One of the men carried a rifle.

A one-and-a-half-minute recording of the holdup shows one of the three men leaving the store followed by the fatal shot being fired at Patel.

In the weeks following the robbery, area business owners formed The Middle Georgia Asian American Business Community Association which organized a march in downtown Macon to bring awareness to the violence that resulted in Patel’s death and the slaying of two other men at area convenience stores during robberies.

More than 600 people marched through downtown Macon on Sept. 10, 2009, calling for peace and safety at the stores.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.