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Trial set to begin in 2002 Athens murder case

Abdus Salaam Laroche

A man is set to go on trial almost exactly 17 years after he allegedly murdered a woman at a westside Athens apartment complex, according to documents recently filed in Clarke County Superior Court.

The documents were motions to secure out-of-state witnesses for a trial scheduled to begin Aug. 26 for Abdus Salaam Laroche, 35, of Decatur, who allegedly fatally stabbed Pamela Crisler during a 2002 burglary of an apartment at College Place Apartments, which has since been renamed University Oaks.

Pamela Crisler

Crisler was killed between Aug. 17 and 21 2002, according to court documents.

A break in the case came after Laroche in 2017 was convicted in the Atlanta area for felony copyright infringement for selling bootlegged DVDs, Athens-Clarke County police said.

As part of a plea bargain, police said that Laroche received probation and agreed to supply a DNA sample. That sample was entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database, and police in Athens were subsequently notified that Laroche’s DNA matched genetic evidence found at the Crisler murder scene.

Police arrested Laroche for Crisler’s alleged murder on May 8, 2018.

A Clarke County grand jury subsequently indicted Laroche for malice murder, two counts of felony murder, first-degree burglary and aggravated assault, according to court records.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In addition to the purported DNA match, prosecutors located a witness to whom Laroche supposedly confessed to killing the 49-year-old mental health and substance abuse counselor

In a motion to compel the trial appearance and testimony of Hazma Ezra Smith of Woodland Hills, Calif, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney James Chafin stated that “(Laroche) told Mr. Smith that he had broken into an apartment and this lady woke up and he had to kill her. Mr. Laroche said he put the knife to her throat and killed her.”

Western Judicial Circuit Judge Eric Norris on Monday issued a subpoena requiring Smith to appear as a state’s witness in Laroche’s trial.

Another witness subpoena was issued for Valrico, Fla., resident Charles Elam.

Authorities said that Crisler was killed in Elam’s apartment while he was out of state.

In a motion for the subpoena, Chafin stated that after returning from visiting with his sister in Florida, Elam noticed a “piece of equipment” was missing from his apartment and that Elam spoke with a neighbor “who saw a person removing the equipment from the apartment on the night of the murder.”

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