It was nine years ago that two men in their 20s were lured to their deaths by two 21-year-old women they picked up in a Marietta sports bar. Finally this week, Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds closed the book on those murders.
It happened around 2 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2009. Christopher O’Neal Jackson, 27, of Marietta and Mark Anthony Jones, 28, of Mableton had gone home with the women they met that evening. Once they were inside the women’s apartment, three men jumped out to rob them. They tried to fight back and were shot to death. A third man with them escaped and called 911.
One of the women and one of the male attackers pleaded guilty years ago. The other three defendants were tried and convicted on the lesser of the charges, and the Georgia Supreme Court overturned those convictions. The second trial ended in a mistrial.
On Monday, as jury selection was set to begin for a third trial, two of the remaining defendants pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault. Cobb Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Poole sentenced them to 40 years, with 30 to serve in prison.
The last one pleaded guilty Thursday to felony murder and was given two life sentences, according to a news release from Reynolds.
“The families of Jones and Jackson have suffered immeasurably from this devastating loss,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans, one of the prosecutors on the case, said in the DA’s news release Thursday. “We are so pleased to at least be able to provide them with finality today, which was only possible due to the hard work and persistence shown by both Marietta Police Department and the DA’s Major Crimes team over the past few years.”
One of the women, Darchelle Renee Arnold, was the first of the five defendants to plead guilty. That was in 2011. Arnold is serving a life sentence for felony murder and aggravated assault, according to the DA’s news release. One male attacker, Jarvis Amartis Butts, now 30, was convicted of felony murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault in 2012. The Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2015, and he is serving two life sentences, plus 20 years.
The other woman in the group, Rolaunda Bridget Fripp, and another of the men, Desmond Omar Post, pleaded guilty Monday—not to murder, for which they were previously acquitted, but to manslaughter, armed robbery and aggravated assault.
The last plea Thursday came from Joseph Eugene Brown. The judge gave Brown two life sentences for felony murder.
Brown was represented by Mitch Durham, Post by Bert Cohen and Fripp by Kim Frye.
“I have been Rolaunda Fripp’s lawyer for almost nine years,” Frye said Thursday evening. “Ms. Fripp has been willing to take responsibility for her part in this case since the beginning.”
Frye said the defense team “worked very hard to try to get her and her co-defendants a fair trial.”
She added that her client was acquitted of malice murder in the 2012 trial but convicted on other charges, though those convictions were reversed.
“In March, we attempted again to go forward, and the case mistried due to juror misconduct during selection regarding researching the old case,” Frye said.
The defense team discovered last week, just before the trial began, potentially damaging evidence against one of the witnesses for the prosecution, Frye said.
“Prior to that information being revealed by defendant’s motions, plea offers were extended and discussed in the final hours before jury selection began again for Ms. Fripp, Mr. Post and Mr. Brown,” Frye said.
Frye said her client didn’t know anyone in her group had a gun that night and never expected any of this to happen—although she understood that “everyone is responsible when someone gets killed.”
Durham could not be reached. Cohen declined to comment.
Marietta attorney Ashleigh Merchant worked with Cohen on Post’s appeal and would have continued with the defense team in the trial that was to begin this week.
“This case could have been resolved nine years ago,” Merchant said. “We were pleased that the district attorney, on the eve of yet another trial, finally agreed to consider the relative responsibility of the parties involved and offered pleas to manslaughter for Mr. Post and Ms. Fripp.”