And then there were two.
A fourth defendant in what started as a six-man armed robbery case related to Steve Toms' 2011 homicide is negotiating a guilty plea, leaving only alleged robber Dimitrius Gordon and Toms' suspected killer Michael Jerome Johnson to go to trial this week in Muscogee County Superior Court.
Theodore Alexander III is the defendant facing the fewest charges in what police say was a robbery ring targeting Columbus businesses. His plea would follow those Friday of Sidney Person and Jockas Gilchrist, each expected to serve 10 years in prison if Judge William Rumer accepts the sentence recommendation. Another defendant, Xavier Lavar Bell, pleaded guilty May 19, with the same sentence recommendation.
According to the indictment, Alexander is charged in the April 2, 2012, robbery of the Winn Dixie at 1627 South Lumpkin Road.
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Along with Person, Bell and Gilchrist, his initial charges were two counts each of aggravated assault and kidnapping, and one of attempted armed robbery. The case was to go to trial today, but attorneys still are holding hearings on pretrial motions, and those continue this morning.
Among the motions is Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley's move to show the jury surveillance video of a robbery to which Johnson and Gordon already have pleaded guilty: the Aug. 22, 2012, armed robbery of the La Mexicana de Columbus restaurant and grocery at 3305 Victory Drive.
In that case, Johnson was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Gordon to 10 years.
Cooley claims the video shows a pattern in how the robbery gang operated.
In the upcoming trial, Johnson and Gordon together face charges in a May 5, 2012, robbery of the Diamond Exchange, 4227 Victory Drive. They have been indicted for armed robbery, aggravated assault and using a firearm to commit a crime.
In the Nov. 15, 2011, robbery and homicide at the Gold & Silver Trading Center Toms managed, Johnson faces two counts of felony murder -- allegedly for killing Toms while committing the felonies of armed robbery and aggravated assault -- and one count each of armed robbery, aggravated assault and using a firearm to commit a crime.
Toms, 63, was found shot to death in the 3717 Gentian Blvd. business the morning of Nov. 16, 2011, but investigators believe he was killed during a robbery between 5:33 and 6 p.m. the day before, when he'd talked on the phone before getting ready to close the store. Store owner Bob Upchurch found Toms around 8:45 a.m. the next day, a loaded gun on the floor beside him. An empty cash drawer was on the front counter, and gold chains were missing from display cases, police said.