'You see how the brotherhood went when you follow an order to kill somebody you don't even know'
He was 17 when he took part in a gang-ordered hit in which the wrong guy was killed at the fuel pumps of a Warner Robins gas station.
On Thursday, Deondray Darnell Yarn, 21, of Atlanta, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for the killing. He also received 45 years for other related charges. Yarn will have to serve at least 50 years before he is eligible for parole consideration, the prosecution says.
Monnie Joseph Brabham IV, 32, was shot and killed minutes before noon Jan. 23, 2014, at the fuel pumps of Murphy USA near the Wal-Mart off Russell Parkway in Warner Robins.
Yarn, a member of One Eight Trey, a set of the Bloods gang, is the last co-defendant to be sentenced in the killing that was allegedly orchestrated by a high-ranking gang member while in prison.
Brabham was not part of any gang.
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Yarn’s attorney Brian Brupbacher argued that Yarn was less culpable than co-defendants who received life with the possibility of parole as part of plea deals. He also asked the judge to consider Yarn’s age at the time of the killing.
Yarn had played basketball and made A’s and B’s in high school until he dropped out and started hanging out with the wrong crowd, his mother told the judge.
“Some kind of way he got up under the wrong influence,” she said. “As a young man, he was tricked into joining into something he considered a brotherhood.”
The victim’s brother talked about how the killing had hurt his mother, his family and friends.
“I want it to be known that my brother was loved, and he’s always going to be missed,” he said. “And we’ll forgive you but we won’t forget.”
Assistant District Attorney Greg Winters sought life without the possibility of parole for Yarn.
He noted that Yarn was the only co-defendant who did not take responsibility for his part in the killing.
Winters also noted how the lives of other people around the busy gas station, nearby restaurant and Wal-Mart were also put in danger by Yarn when he opened fire.
“For reasons I don’t understand, you choose to waste the life that God gave you by getting affiliated with this group,” Judge G.E. “Bo” Adams told Yarn. “But you see how that brotherhood went when you follow an order to kill somebody you don’t even know.
“And you’re showing your obedience ... for the higher-ups in the gang and you see how they treat you in response to your loyalty; the opportunity they have to cut a deal for themselves, better themselves, they quickly point their finger at you, throw you under the bus,” Adams said. “And that’s what you traded your life for.”
On the last day of his life, Brabham was driving around his good friend, LaJerrius Barfield, to earn some extra money. Barfield was the intended target of a planned kidnapping, torture and killing ordered by Kelvin Melton, according to District Attorney Greg Winters.
Melton allegedly dispatched gang members down from Atlanta to the Warner Robins home of fellow gang member Tianna Danet Maynard. The plan was to lure Barfield to her home, where tarp had been put down in the floor of a bathroom, according to the prosecution.
Clifton James Roberts testified at last week’s trial of Deondray Darnell Yarn that the tarp was in case Barfield put up a fight or they needed to torture Barfield to extract information. The gang members lay in wait for Barfield to arrive. Barfield testified at Yarn’s trial that something didn’t feel right and he and Brabham decided not to go inside.
Brabham and Barfield next went to the drive-thru at Zaxby’s and then to get gas at the adjacent Murphy’s USA on Booth Road. The gang followed in Roberts’ Chevy Tahoe.
While Brabham was pumping gas, Gooden and Yarn jumped out of the backseat of the Tahoe and came up behind Brabham.
Brabham was shot in a brief struggle with Gooden, who testified at Yarn’s trial that the shotgun went off when Brabham reached for the handle.
Yarn fired at Barfield as he ran away. Barfield tripped and fell as he ran, with gang members thinking he’d been killed also. All of the gang members were promoted after the killing, according to testimony at Yarn’s trial.
Gooden, Roberts and Maynard all pleaded guilty to murder and received life sentences with the possibility of parole as part of plea deals. The sentences run at the same time as their sentences for the North Carolina kidnapping.
Ameshia Cartis Cosby pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and violation of the street gang act and received a 10-year prison sentence. Cosby and Yarn were not implicated in the North Carolina kidnapping.