Nineteen-year-old Ansley Cochran was in her third month of her first job when someone came in the unlocked back door of Barberitos just after 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday in January 2018.
Within seconds of spotting an armed man dressed in black, Cochran found herself with her hands in the air as a gun was pointed at her and co-workers, Jordan Christian and Parker Moore.
Cochran recalled looking over and seeing a customer talking on her cellphone in a booth, oblivious to the life-and-death drama unfolding just a few feet away.
The killing that happened in the next few minutes would rock the Warner Robins community already reeling from two killings that same month. Afterward, Mayor Randy Toms would encourage residents to arm themselves.
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A 28-year-old Warner Robins man would be identified by police as the suspect in all three slayings, including the one at Barberitos. He has been charged in only one of those cases.
As 2018 drew to a close there had been nine killings within the city limits of Warner Robins. There were none in the other two cities of Houston County or in the unincorporated areas of the county. So far in 2019, no homicides have been reported in all of Houston County.
More than a year after the fatal shooting, Cochran said she’s still sometimes afraid to go out at night, fearful of the sound of fireworks and other loud noises. She said she always sits in restaurants where she can see the exits. She recently told The Telegraph what she recalls of the deadly armed robbery.
Her co-worker, Moore, 23, was attempting to open the cash register, she said, after he was ordered to do so.
“The (armed) man said, ‘You’re taking too long. You’re taking too long,’ “ Cochran said. “And the first shot went off. I had fallen to the ground covering my ears and screaming. The first shot had hit Jordan.”
Then the second — boom.
“He showed no remorse,” Cochran said. “I mean he got the money, and he still killed Parker. It’s like he was just somebody that did not care for human life at all.”
From police officers who viewed the surveillance video, Cochran said she learned that Moore had set the cash register on the counter, the robber had grabbed the cash and then he shot Moore while turning to flee out the back door.
“As soon as I opened my eyes, I saw nothing but smoke and the man was gone,” Cochran said.
Her eyes then fell on Moore.
“He never woke up,” Cochran said. “He was gone immediately, which I’m thankful for because I honestly don’t think he suffered.”
Christian was lying on the floor behind her. A bullet had grazed his head. Shaking, Cochran stood up slowly, trying to gather any sort of composure.
The young woman who’d been on her cellphone was still sitting in the booth. Cochran mouthed to her, “Is he gone?” The woman said she didn’t know, Cochran said.
Cochran went to the booth and used a cellphone, abandoned by a fleeing customer, to summon an ambulance.
“Jordan started screaming for help,” Cochran said. “His adrenaline kicked in and he ended up standing up and walking over and crawled under the booth.”
Cochran held his head in her lap as his blood poured down her legs. She began to pray. She asked him to pray with her. She didn’t want him to lose consciousness again.
“I really didn’t expect him to survive that night, so I was hoping it was just going to be in God’s hands,” Cochran said. “I had him pray out loud with me until the police got there.”
Christian recovered but lost 45 percent of his eyesight when the bullet took about a half-dollar sized piece of his skull, Cochran said.
“He didn’t even realize that Parker had died because he had gotten shot first,” said Cochran, who keeps in contact with Christian. “They had to tell him that Parker had died ... while he was in the hospital.”
Lakeisha Colbert, 28, a production supervisor at a chemistry lab, was also at the restaurant that night. She said she was seated with her back to the bar near the register when she heard a sound like “someone had dropped ... dishes or something.”
She and a friend were talking, having come to the restaurant to get something to eat and watch a Vikings’ playoff game.
“I just nonchalantly looked around ... and then I see the shooter at the register,” said Colbert, who recalled he was wearing all black with something covering his face. “Pretty much everybody at the bar, we all moved at the same time.”
They ran out a front door, across a parking lot and several lanes of traffic on Watson Boulevard to reach an Enmark gas station across the street.
Colbert recalled tripping and skinning herself up a bit. She also remembered beating on the windows of a pickup truck and saying, “Call 911. There’s been a shooting at Barberitos.”
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies swarmed the restaurant. Families of Enmark employees arrived armed and paced the parking lot, according to Colbert. She said she heard the loud screams of a woman arriving at Barberitos.
“It was so crazy ... maybe 30 minutes before this happened, there were kids in there,” Colbert said. “It was like a little birthday party. It wasn’t closing time ... Who comes and robs something, like, while all these people are still here?”
A few days before the Barberitos killing, Warner Robins police announced that arrest warrants for murder and related charges had been issued for Daniel Bruce Franz II in the shooting death of 28-year-old Vincent Junior at Tanglewood Apartments on Elberta Road earlier that month.
Shortly after his arrest, Franz was named as the suspect in the Barberitos killing and a fatal shooting at a Chevon gas station. Franz has not been charged in either of those slayings. His Warner Robins attorney Carl Veline could not be reached for comment.
Police remain “pretty confident” that Franz is responsible for all three slayings, said Warner Robins police Capt. Chris Rooks, who commands the agency’s criminal investigations division. But probable cause has not been established to charge Franz with those killings and efforts to rule him out as a suspect also have been unsuccessful, Rooks said.
“It was a series of crimes, and if you’ll remember at that time ... the public was in panic ... We had three homicides right there close to each other,” Rooks said. “It’s unusual for Warner Robins to have that many on top of each other. It stretches our resources to investigate cases like that on top of each other.
“So, once he’s in jail, he’s remained our suspect,” Rooks said. “He continues to be our suspect, and we’re still trying to focus our evidence and information that we receive. ... We’ve had ... other suspects named. Somebody may call and give a name. ‘You might want to check this guy out.’ None of that’s panned out, or it’s all been eliminated. But he still remains a suspect in the case. We have not been able to eliminate him.”
“That’s the reality of open cases, Rooks said. “Sometimes you may know who the suspect or the offender is but ... sometimes it takes time to charge somebody. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it takes years.”
There is no statute of limitations to charge someone in a homicide, and with Franz in custody, detectives have time to evaluate evidence and continue to investigate, Rooks said.
“A lot of times it’s not uncommon for people to have information on crimes, and .. they may wait for a period of time before they tell us what they saw, what they know,” Rooks said. “But a lot times, that’s out of fear, and sometimes, time alleviates that fear and ... we get more information.”
In linking the slayings, police noted the proximity and timing of the Tanglewood Apartments and Chevron slayings, which were less than a half mile apart and within a few hours of each other.
“There’s a lot of circumstances that connect those cases,” Rooks said. “Some we have released. ... But then there’s some connections that still are under investigation that we can’t release to the public at this point.”
One similarity that was released was this chilling detail: victims in both the Barberitos and Chevron slayings did not put up any resistance and were complying with demands when they were shot.
In the surveillance video from the Chevron killing, 25-year-old clerk Janak Patel puts his hands the air and opens both cash registers and places the money in a bag, said close family friend, Sanjay Patel, who watched the video.
“And then the robber, right as soon as he took the money, he shot him on his head,” Sanjay Patel said. “After he did everything what he’d ask for, he still got shot.
“It was hard for the family. That’s why they didn’t want to live in Georgia anymore. That’s why they moved,” he said.
Andy Moore still has trouble sleeping at night. He says he and his son, Parker, were close.
“The manner in which he was taken, it’s just killing me on the inside,” Andy Moore said.
“I want my phone to ring with somebody that they’ve arrested,” he said. “But if it’s not (Franz), then I don’t want him to be accused or arrested for something he didn’t do ... I just want to be sure they get the right guy.”
Rooks encouraged people to come forward with information even if they think it may be insignificant. He noted it’s never too late.
“Danny Franz was out on the run for a significant amount of time,” Rooks said. “I’m confident there are people who have information that could shed more light on these cases, and all we ask is for them to provide that information — to call us.”
Anyone with information may call Warner Robins police at 478-302-5378, reach out to them on social media, or call Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 1-877-68CRIME.
Here’s a brief look at the other 2018 homicides
▪ Jared Randall Carter, 31, is charged with murder after he allegedly struck his 81-year-old grandmother, Valearia Mann, in the head with a ceramic slow cooker and then stabbed her in the chest with a knife at her Willow Avenue home in Warner Robins on June 9, 2018.
▪ Rodney Wayne Helms, 38, is charged with murder in the alleged armed robbery of 29-year-old Natasha Alexandra Reyes, who was shot multiple times Nov. 13, 2018, inside a Maplewood Drive home she shared with her mother in Warner Robins.
▪ No arrest has been made in the Dec. 16, 2018 fatal shooting of 37-year-old Joel Lamar Graham in the 300-block of Ridgestone Drive in Warner Robins. Jadarius Dykes, the son of rapper Jeezy, was injured in the incident.
▪ Shaneka Renee Smith, 25, was charged with murder in the slaying of her girlfriend, 31-year-old Monis Traci Howard-Roberts, who was fatally stabbed seconds after opening the door to police responding to a call for help at Foxwood Apartment Townhomes on Dec. 27, 2018.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.