He was slain while pumping gas. Now, one of his accused killers heads to trial

Deondray Darnell Yarn
Deondray Darnell Yarn

One of four suspected Atlanta gang members charged with murder in the slaying of a man as he pumped gas is about to go on trial.

Monnie Joseph Brabham IV, 32, was shot and killed minutes before noon on Jan. 23, 2014, at the pumps of Murphy USA near a busy super Wal-Mart on Booth Road in Warner Robins.

His silver 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood was stolen and later recovered by police, abandoned in a nearby neighborhood.

Michael Montreal Gooden, Clifton James Roberts, Tianna Danet Maynard and Deondray Darnell Yarn were indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery and violation of the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.

The four affiliated themselves with the One Eight Trey gang, authorities said. Brabham was not affiliated with the gang.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday for Yarn, 20, in Houston County Superior Court before Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams.

Yarn maintains that he not guilty of firing at Brabham as accused, said Russell Walker, his Perry attorney. He declined to elaborate.

Three of Yarn’s co-defendants — Gooden, Roberts and Maynard — pleaded guilty in federal court in North Carolina earlier this year for their parts in kidnapping a prosecutor’s father in 2014.

The kidnapping was orchestrated by a high-ranking member of the Eight Trey Blood gang while serving a life sentence for a 2011 murder conviction.

Yarn was not implicated in that case.

Roberts and Maynard are expected to testify against Yarn. Both of them were transferred from federal prisons to local jails recently in preparation for his trial.

Additionally, a notice of intent to seek the death penalty has been filed against Gooden in the gas station slaying.

Ameshia Cartis Cosby, who was indicted on the same charges as Yarn and the others in the slaying, struck a plea deal last year.

Cosby pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and violation of the street gang act, with the other charges dismissed. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 15 years on probation.

She also has been transferred to a local jail for expected testimony at Yarn’s trial. Gooden, Roberts and Maynard are all pending trial in the slaying.

In the North Carolina kidnapping case, Kelvin Melton was sentenced in November to life plus 18 months in prison for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and related charges.

Melton was convicted in June 2016 of using a cellphone smuggled illegally into the Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, to orchestrate the kidnapping of Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen.

But the co-conspirators, lower-ranking gang members, went to the wrong address and instead kidnapped her father, Frank Janssen, from his Wake Forest home and took him to Atlanta.

Melton instructed co-conspirators to kill Frank Janssen, dispose of his body and sanitize the crime scene, prosecutors said in a news release. But Janssen was rescued before those directives could be carried out.

Colleen Janssen had successfully prosecuted Melton for a 2011 murder that resulted in a life sentence.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser