Macon man draws life without parole for store slaying

Maurice Murray Battle is the youngest of Jerry Battle’s seven sons.

He was a smart child raised in a family with two supportive parents who regularly went to parent-teacher conferences.

Sagging pants and disrespect weren’t acceptable in the Battle house, Jerry Battle said Thursday in the courtroom, where his son sat wearing a Bibb County jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.

“My son is a lot of things, but he’s not a cold-blooded killer,” Battle told the judge. “My son really needs help mentally.”

Soon, the 21-year-old Battle learned his fate. Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Earlier this month, jurors convicted Battle of murder in the Aug. 30, 2009, shooting death of Dipak “Danny” Patel. Patel complied with Battle’s demands when Battle and another man robbed the Chevron station on Riverside Drive, where the 29-year-old Patel was a store manager.

“It was a calculated, remorseless killing,” prosecutor Sandra Matson said. “Mr. Patel was shot for no reason.”

Another clerk, Wendy Patterson, and two customers were in the store during the heist.

Battle also was convicted of armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The judge sentenced him to an additional 45 years for those crimes.

During Thursday’s hearing, Matson argued that Battle should be sentenced to life without parole, describing Battle’s prior trouble with the law, while Battle’s lawyer pleaded with the judge to give him a chance for release on probation in the years to come, citing mental illness dating to when Battle was 11 years old.

Battle’s trouble with the law started long before he walked into the Chevron store near College Street and fired a gun.

In 2006, while he was in Bibb County Juvenile Court in front of a judge, he threw a blue bandanna -- an accessory that identified him as a member of the Crips gang -- at the judge. He was convicted of participating in a street gang, Matson said.

In 2007, Battle attacked his brother and tested positive for drugs, she said. He was expelled from school during his teenage years.

On the night of the robbery, Battle told the group gathered in the store that there would be a “187,” slang for a murder.

He later bragged that he’d gotten his first teardrop, his first “trophy” kill, Matson said.

And Battle damaged more than one life that night, she said. Patterson, the other clerk, went back to work for a week or so after her manager had been killed. One day, though, she called her mother to come get her. Crying, she said she couldn’t work there.

“Today, Miss Patterson doesn’t have a job she can go to,” Matson said.

Patterson and the owner of the convenience store where Patel worked were in the courtroom, but they didn’t talk at the hearing and they declined to comment after Battle was sentenced.

Matson said the store owner is in contact with Patel’s family, all of whom live in India.

Battle started seeing a psychologist at age 11 and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, said Brad Gardner, his attorney.

He also has shown signs of narcissistic personality disorder, a mental condition that affects a person’s ability to feel empathy, Garner said.

Jerry Battle said his son started having problems with anger after his fourth-grade teacher told him “he wouldn’t ever be anything” in front of his classmates. His ongoing anger prompted his parents to contact a psychologist.

The family started going to counseling in 2005. Although the doctor said 20 weekly sessions were needed, Maurice Battle completed just three.

Jerry Battle said his son moved in with his brother and stopped going to the sessions.

“I have rules in my house and things I won’t tolerate,” he said. “Once he got a taste of that free life,” something changed.

Maurice Battle’s brother, Korey Stephens, 28, and Rashard Jeran Harris, 27, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in July in connection with the robbery.

Stephens admitted that he drove Battle to the store and picked him up. Harris said he took money from the store during the robbery, but he didn’t shoot Patel.

Both men accepted plea bargains and testified at Battle’s trial.

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