Exclusive: Seized handgun could lead to killer in Atlanta-area cold case
Solve This Crime 04/17/2017 11:54 am PDT
UPDATE April 3, 2020:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (TCD) --
Donald Ash was arrested Friday and charged in the 2012 death of Vanessa “Honey” Malone, the DeKalb County Police Dept. announced.
Ash was arrested at 4:30 p.m. and held in the DeKalb County Jail, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
April 17, 2017:
Who killed Honey Malone? It's an enduring mystery that still haunts the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain.
Downtown's main street seems idyllic, but they are the mean streets: Stone Mountain is said to be one of the most dangerous cities in Georgia.
Was Vanessa "Honey" Malone an innocent victim who accidentally walked in on a home invasion in progress -- or was she silenced because she knew too much about a drug deal?
"I think she walked in on a drug deal that went bad," said DeKalb County Police Detective Courtney Brown.
DeKalb County Police Detective Courtney Brown was one of the first investigators on the scene on October 23, 2012.
"From my investigation, the apartment was very busy, people went in and out of the apartment, the traffic was of high volumes, so it could have been many, many more," said Det. Brown.
Some of Honey's friends, with names like "Spoon," "Mercy," and "Yak," have criminal records.
"She obviously got caught up and hanging out with the wrong crew," said DeKalb County Police Detective Lynn Shuler. "It was a dope house. We believe they sold marijuana and cocaine."
One night Honey came home from her job at a dress store. She told her mom she was going out. But Honey never came back.
Police believe that moments later, Honey stumbled upon an armed robbery.
"I believe it was a home-invasion robbery with the main purpose to steal the drugs and the money out of that apartment," said Det. Shuler.
Invasion may be an understatement. Honey's friends who were in the apartment told cops between three and six men with guns kicked down the door. They claim they were beaten and tied up with a belt and the cord of an electric razor and herded into the shower.
And then gunshots pierced the night. Honey was shot once in the back and once in the chest, the bullet plunging straight through her heart.
"While the robbers were ransacking the apartment I believe Honey walked in, and when she turned to leave she was shot," said Det. Shuler.
The gunmen dragged Honey's body across the carpet leaving a trail of blood. She was taken into the master bedroom and dumped face down on some dirty clothes in the closet.
"Collateral damage. She saw more than she needed to see," said Det. Brown. "They were there to do a drug transaction either buy some drugs or to sell a large quantity of drugs. While in the midst of doing that drug transaction, Honey walked in, and she saw too much."
At the house, investigators found the shell casings from the bullets that killed Honey, as well as shoe prints on the front door and in the gravel. Outside they have found blood drops that were not from Honey Malone.
"We talked to a neighbor that saw the suspects leave the apartment," said Det. Shuler. "There was a confrontation in the parking lot and he believes that one of the suspects was shot in the leg because his buddy was helping them into the car. We followed up with all the hospitals in the Atlanta metro area and surrounding counties, nobody came in that night or the next day with a gunshot wound to the leg, so the suspect either traveled out of state or he just had a fix by a neighborhood doctor."
Now after years of searching for the men responsible for her murder, detectives may finally have the break they were looking for.
"We need someone to come forward someone who knows what happened," said DeKalb County Police Det. Courtney Brown.
But getting that someone to come forward has been a challenge for DeKalb County Police in Georgia. They've granted Crime Watch Daily rare access to the evidence in the hope our story will help solve this cold case.
"I have a picture of Honey in my office and I look at that picture every single day. I want this case closed," said Det. Brown.
And so does Honey's family.
Flora, Honey's mother, and Honey's sister Cassaundra believe Honey was lured to the apartment to silence her.
"I believe they thought she knew something or saw something and was worried that she was going to tell," said Flora. "She wouldn't just walk into a kicked-in door to see what happened, that's not her."
One troubling question: Why was Honey's cellphone found far away from the murder scene?
"We tracked her cellphone after the murder to a location about a half-mile away where it stayed there until it died," said Det. Shuler. Shuler says it was stolen during the incident.
But Honey's family doesn't buy that explanation. The unexplained mystery of the disappearing cell phone and the stories from the witnesses who say the gunmen tied them up has sparked fresh speculation.
"I don't think that the story they gave the police is accurate," said sister Cassaundra. "You are a thug. You sell drugs, you got all these weapons and you scared? You scared to untie yourself and you had to wait until these three to six men left before you untied yourselves?"
But Honey's alleged gangster friends "Yak" and "Mercy," the men who claimed they were tied up, are not officially considered suspects or persons of interest. At least not yet.
"I would say a main person of interest in this case will be Mercy, based on the statements I've reviewed and the evidence that I've looked at," said Det. Lynn Shuler. "He was very deep into the dope gang and it seems like he ran the business out of that house."
Mercy was charged with theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail.
And Yak pleaded guilty to violating the Controlled Substances Act and tampering with evidence.
Neither man has been charged in connection with Honey's murder, and they haven't responded to our request for comment.
It seems that everyone has their theories about why Honey was killed. But theories alone don't solve murders. Hard evidence does.
And now Crime Watch Daily can exclusively report a dramatic new development: Police tell us new evidence -- a handgun recently seized in an unrelated arrest -- could possibly lead to the killer.
"One of the people identified as being a person of interest in this case was arrested with a firearm," said Shuler. "It is a 9-millimeter, which we had 9-mm shell casings at the scene, so we're hoping that it might match."
"It could be a big break, we know who the gun belongs to, so if it comes back as a match, then we're almost there," said Det. Shuler. "[The bullet] was found within the gun battle so we could associate that shell casing with have been being at the scene, but we don't know exactly what killed Honey."
For Honey's family, the search for answers continues. They'll never rest until the killer or killers are behind bars.
If you know anything about the case you can make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers Atlanta at (404) 577-TIPS, or submit a tip to Crime Watch Daily.
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