Three sentenced in 2018 Athens shooting death




Shooting victim Walter James Brown Jr.

By Joe Johnson

Three men were recently sentenced to prison this week for a 2018 fatal shooting during a drug-related dispute at an eastside Athens apartment complex.

Athens-Clarke County police said 31-year-old Habersham Drive resident Walter James Brown Jr. was killed the night of Dec. 10, 2018 when shot multiple times with different guns during a drug-related dispute at Oak Hill Apartments.

After an investigation by detectives in the Criminal Investigations Division, authorities arrested Ralph Lakee Bess, 30, of East Paces Drive; Maurice Antwone Lawrence, 32, of Duluth; and, Davonte Jamal Brown, 26 of North Ridge Drive.


Davonte Jamal Brown

Maurice Antwone Lawrence

Ralph Lakee Bess

All three were subsequently indicted for malice and felony murder and related crimes.

On Friday -- three days before they were to go on trial -- all three defendants entered into plea bargains with the Western Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, in which the murder charges were dismissed.

According to the sentencing documents filed in Clarke County Superior Court, Brown pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and was sentenced to 17 years in prison and three years on probation; Lawrence, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, was sentenced to five years in prison and 20 years of probation; and Bess, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, was sentenced to three years in confinement, to be suspended after successful completion of six to nine months in a detention center and followed by 10 years of probation.

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