Sheriff: More than one shooter possibly involved in Winder incident that killed two


Athens residents Alphonzo Gonzalez (l) and Julio Rivera are suspects in an apparent armed robbery attempt in which two people were killed

By Joe Johnson

More than one shooter may have been involved in an incident in Winder last week that left two people dead, according to Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith.

Authorities initially said that 20-year-old Skylar Suwannakood claimed that he shot a male in self-defense during an attempted robbery early the morning of March 2 in his neighborhood, the Beech Creek Estates subdivision off state Highway 82.

According to a sheriff’s incident report, Suwannakood said he was in a BMW sedan being driven by Erika Contreras, 19, of Athens and that they were going to get something to eat when Contreras turned the vehicle around and stopped at an intersection because she indicated she was having car troubles, according to the report.

That was when 19-year-old Jose Barerra of Athens reportedly approached the car and stuck a gun in the face of Suwannakood, who then shot Barrera, whose body was later found in a ditch by the intersection, according to the report.

Contreras was found about 100 yards away, in the driver’s seat of the BMW, with a shattered rear window and with the woman dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a sheriff’s incident report.

The incident report noted the car was next to a construction dumpster on someone’s front yard, with the woman’s foot on the car’s gas pedal and the vehicle’s transmission in neutral, according to the report.

“Based on what we know happened after Barrera was shot, Contreras drove away with Skylar still the car,” the sheriff said on Tuesday. “Skylar stated Contreras was shot from outside the car and denies shooting her.

The day after the incident, two Athens residents were arrested and charged with criminal attempt at armed robbery and aggravated assault with the intent to rob.

They were identified by the sheriff's office as Julio Rivera, 20, and Alphonso Gonzalez, 19.

Smith said investigators on Tuesday were still trying to piece together the chain of events that led to the two deaths.

“The motive is unknown at this time,” he said. “The two in custody have stated they weren’t involved but we can prove otherwise. Unfortunately, the other two are dead and cannot give us a motive.”

The sheriff added, “We have several search warrants for phones from the scene which hopefully will help us piece together the hours and moments before from all parties. It's my hope the cell phone search warrants will give us a lot more details.”

Rivera and Gonzalez were being held without bail at the Barrow County Detention Center.

The sheriff asked for anyone with information about this case to contact Investigator Jason Smith at 770-307-3080, ext. 8575.

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