Houston & Peach

Testimony: Warner Robins gas station killing was gang-ordered kidnapping gone wrong

'When he pulled for the gun, the gun went off'

Excerpts from testimony in the Houston County trial of one of the suspected gang members charged with murder in the 2014 slaying of Monnie Joseph Brabham IV, 32, of Macon, at a Warner Robins gas station.
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Excerpts from testimony in the Houston County trial of one of the suspected gang members charged with murder in the 2014 slaying of Monnie Joseph Brabham IV, 32, of Macon, at a Warner Robins gas station.

A gang-ordered kidnapping and planned torture went wrong when a Macon man was shot and killed at the pumps of a busy Murphy USA on Booth Road in Warner Robins three years ago.

That’s according to testimony Tuesday in the Houston County trial of Deondray Darnell Yarn, one of the suspected Atlanta gang members charged in the slaying of 32-year-old Monnie Joseph Brabham IV just before noon Jan. 23, 2014.

Yarn, along with Michael Montreal Gooden, Clifton James Roberts and Tianna Danet Maynard 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 One Eight Trey, a sect of the Bloods gang, according to testimony. Brabham was not affiliated with the gang.

But Brabham was a good friend of LaJerrious Barfield, who had broken with the gang, Assistant District Attorney Greg Winters told jurors in opening statements. Barfield testified that he left to join the Donald G. Family gang, or DGF.

Brabham and Barfield grew up together and were doing some business together that day Brabham was shot and killed. What that business was did not come out in Tuesday’s testimony.

Brabham drove them in his gold Cadillac to Maynard’s Lee Street home in Warner Robins. Barfield said “something just didn’t feel right,” and the two decided not to park or go inside. Instead, they went to Zaxby’s restaurant to get something to eat and then to the adjacent gas station.

What Barfield and Brabham didn’t know at the time was that several gang members were inside Maynard’s home ready to ambush Barfield, Roberts testified.

Maynard had put some plastic down in a bathroom in case Barfield put up a fight or had to be tortured, Roberts said. Another gang member had talked about heating up a spatula and placing it against Barfield’s genitals to extract information from him.

When Barfield and Brabham drove away from Maynard’s home, the crew jumped into Robert’s Chevy Tahoe. Roberts followed the two to the restaurant and then to the gas station.

The plan, which Roberts said was ordered by a higher-ranking gang member in prison in another state, was to abduct Barfield. But Brabham became a victim by mistake. That high-ranking gang member was not charged in the Brabham killing.

Brabham was pumping gas when Gooden, armed with a shotgun, and Yarn, armed with Roberts’ handgun, jumped out of the Tahoe and came up behind him, Roberts testified.

Gooden told jurors he thought the plan was to abduct both men and take them back to Maynard’s home. Brabham was killed when he struggled with Gooden.

“Guess he realized I was a little dude and went to reach for the gun and pulled,” Gooden testified. “When he pulled for the gun, the gun went off, and I hit him.”

Yarn ran to the passenger side of Brabham’s Cadillac and fired at Barfield as he ran away. Both Gooden and Roberts said they thought that Barfield had been shot and was dead. But Barfield had only fallen as he ran to Zaxby’s restaurant.

Gooden jumped into the driver’s seat of the Cadillac, while Yarn jumped into the passenger side. They fled in the car, abandoning it in a nearby residential area after taking some iPhones from inside.

Jurors watched store surveillance video that captured the killing. The Tahoe’s arrival and departure from the crime scene was captured on a dash cam of a vehicle.

A few months after the gas station slaying, Gooden, Roberts and Maynard were involved in the kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father.

All three struck deals with Houston County prosecutors in which they could plead guilty to murder and receive recommended sentences of life with the possibility of parole in exchange for their truthful testimony related to the Brabham slaying, according to Tuesday’s testimony. Those sentences would run at same time with lengthy sentences they received in the North Carolina kidnapping case.

In the North Carolina case, high-ranking Bloods member Kelvin Melton was convicted last year 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 on April 5, 2014.

Melton instructed co-conspirators to kill Frank Janssen, dispose of his body and sanitize the crime scene. But Janssen was rescued just before midnight April 9, 2014, before those directives could be carried out. Colleen Janssen had successfully prosecuted Melton for a 2011 murder that resulted in a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Roberts, Maynard and another gang member were arrested in Robert’s Chevy Tahoe on April 10, 2014. Two shovels, a pick and Robert’s gun were found inside the Tahoe, according to the North Carolina indictment against them.

Testimony in the Houston County trial is expected to continue Wednesday before Superior Court Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser