By Joe Johnson
In the five years that police have been investigating a murder that occurred in downtown Athens, one thing has remained constant: they have been unable to identify any suspects in the Aug. 13, 2016 shooting death of Daniel Macias.
And in that time, there has been a grieving family that wants justice for their loved one.
Macias, a 28-year-old server at a local restaurant, was the first person to be murdered downtown since 2003, and in its immediate aftermath police gave the case highest priority as they sought to allay concerns of business owners, government officials and citizens alike.
Five years later, “This case is still active as detectives continue to utilize investigative resources and have done investigative interviews as recently as this year,” said Lt. Shawn Barnett, public information officer for ACCPD.
“There are no suspects,” he said, “Detectives do not have a motive but the possibility of a drug connection has not been ruled out.”
On the night that he was killed, Christy Rohmer Burrows said her brother-in-law went downtown after working his shift at Agua Linda on Prince Avenue, but not straightaway.
“After working at the restaurant that night, he went to the store across the street and bought beer and then got a phone call from someone and put his beer down and left,” she said. “I don’t think he had plans to go downtown but whomever called him on the phone asked him to meet them so he planned to meet someone downtown.
“We think that person was his friend Sean,” Rohmer Burrows said. “Sean ended up not meeting him downtown because he had a headlight out. Sean was the friend he was on the phone with for seven minutes right before he was murdered. The phone disconnected with Sean at the same time we assume he met his killer on the corner.”
Police would not say if they interviewed Sean or confirm a report that a witness overheard some Hispanic males talking about participating in the murder.
According to Rohmer Burrows, a co-worker at Agua Linda had noticed that Daniel had been stressed and worried about money.
"She was around him a lot at work," she said. "(The co-worker) said he acted like he owed someone money."
From downtown surveillance camera video footage, police said that investigators know Macias was outside the 9d’s Bar on East Clayton Street as it was closing at 2:25 a.m.
He was killed 10 minutes later near the intersection of North Jackson Street and East Hancock Avenue, right outside of the sally port for vehicles that transport prisoners to the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse. He was shot on the sidewalk and collapsed in a bed of landscaping mulch.
There is a camera on that corner, but the sally port’s brick wall blocked the view of the shooting.
Police do not believe Macias was randomly killed. He was shot five times, which suggests a personal motive.
“Typically, when it’s a robbery the suspect might shoot the victim once or twice, but Mr. Macias was shot multiple times, indicating the motive might have been more personal,” Deputy Police Chief Jerry Saulters said soon after the murder. At the time, Saulters was commanding officer of the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder police released surveillance video camera footage that shows an apparent white male dressed in dark clothing walking on the south sidewalk of East Hancock Avenue toward the direction of the crime scene.
If the person is not the killer, police said there is a good chance he saw Macias and the killer immediately before or at the time of the murder.
Macias was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Alpharetta. In 2007 he enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he majored in business management.
He completed four years at UGA, but was not a student when he was killed. Family members said Daniel fell in love with Athens and decided to remain in town.
At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Erica called her brother a “gentle giant” who had a booming laugh, contagious smile and wonderful sense of humor that made him well known and liked in the downtown Athens nightlife scene.
Detectives may have tirelessly worked the Macias murder case, but that does not console the victim’s mother.
“We need to get this monster off the street,” Teresa Macias said. “He took my baby, he took somebody’s brother, he took somebody’s uncle.
The woman said she wants her son’s killer arrested before he strikes again.
“Please, whoever you are, turn yourself in you coward,” she said. “Now that’s truly how I feel. I could go on and on, but with anger.
“Somebody knows something out there,” the slain man’s mother continued. “Please help me, I need closure I’m not going to rest until I have closure. Daniel deserves justice and we are going to get it.”
Detectives remain optimistic about solving the case, Barnett said.
“There is somebody that has information about what happened,” he said. “It's just a matter of them doing the right thing and coming forward to tell what they know.
The Macias family is offering a $10,000 reward for information that helps police identify the killer. That is in addition to a Crime Stoppers reward of $1,000.
Anyone with information concerning Macias’ death should contact Detective McCauley at 762-400-7061 or email@example.com.
Anonymous calls can be made to the Crime Stoppers Tip confidential tip line at 706-705-4775.