Victim Targeted for Drugs, Money

August 16, 2013

Atlanta– Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. announces a conviction by jury trial in the murder case against 24-year-old Gabriel McDowell. Jurors returned guilty verdicts Thursday on all counts including Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Attempted Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault and weapons charges in connection with the shooting death of Laurence Gaston, 40.

Gaston was gunned down on August 10, 2011 while trying to escape an attack from two men. Defendant McDowell and his accomplice Marquis Weems– believing a rumor that the victim, a local barber, had a large stash of marijuana in his North Avenue home– decided to rob him. The defendants hid in the victim’s backyard all night and waited for him to leave the house. The next morning when the victim came outside to feed his dogs, the defendants ambushed him and demanded money and drugs. When the victim refused, co-defendant Weems shot him in the leg and later in the back when he tried to run away.  After the victim collapsed, Weems fired another, fatal shot, into the victim’s chest. The assailants then fled the scene.

Marquis Weems, who was indicted with McDowell, pleaded guilty to all charges last year and was sentenced to life in prison. Weems testified during the trial against McDowell this week and lied on the stand, claiming McDowell was not at the scene of the crime in an attempt exonerate the defendant. Following his conviction, McDowell was sentenced to life plus five years in prison by presiding Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk.

The case was prosecuted by Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney Lance Cross with assistance from ADA Rodney Atreopersaud and DA Investigator Terence Wise. Detective Kevin Leonpacher of the Atlanta Police Department led the initial investigation.

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