After testimony that Dearius Ransom and Joshua Dodson in 2012 were armed “predators” who chose to ambush and rob strangers trying to go about their everyday lives, Judge Art Smith III sentenced them to decades in prison.
Convicted on two counts each of armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, using a firearm to commit a felony and being a convicted felon with a gun, Ransom was given 50 years to serve in prison.
Convicted on one count each of armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle and using a firearm to commit a felony, Dodson got 25 years to serve in prison.
Before sentencing them, Smith said armed robbery under Georgia law is among the most serious crimes, with a “razor-thin difference” between it and murder when it involves a gun.
He noted the victims in the carjackings of June 28, 2012, were treated like prey when the robbers accosted them, telling Ransom he chose to use a gun “to imperil the lives of your victims, who were doing nothing but going about their own business.”
Beyond that, the crimes were “brazen,” Smith added, as neither defendant wore a mask or other disguise.
One of the victims, Valtrene Larkins, told of going to Columbus Recorder’s Court after the suspects were arrested for robbing her of her Chevrolet Impala, in which she’d had about $500 in valuables, including a distinct pair of sneakers.
In the courtroom she saw another woman who’d come to watch the proceedings, she testified. The other woman was wearing the stolen sneakers, she said.
A second victim did not come to the sentencing, but his mother did. “He’s still just shocked,” said Tasheta Moore, mother of Derrick Moore, who at gunpoint was robbed of his Ford Crown Victoria after being struck in the eye.
His eye remained swollen for a month, the mother said, noting her son was only 17 at the time.
Still mourning the loss of a close friend who’d just died of sickle-cell anemia, her son was planning to take his car and go off to college, she said, but that changed when Dodson wrecked the Ford trying to get away.
Her son never went off to school, and his car’s still inoperable, having sustained $3,500 in damage, for which the insurance would cover only $1,200. Also he gets nervous whenever a car rushes up beside him the way Ransom came roaring up in the stolen Impala the day of the robbery.
“He’s paranoid,” she said.
Also testifying was Lindsay Walker, who as Derrick Moore’s girlfriend witnessed the robbery and fled with him in her car afterward. She’s still jittery, too, she said: “I really can’t go anywhere without looking over my shoulder.”
Police Sgt. John Bailey, who investigated the cases, said such stranger-to-stranger robberies make other Columbus residents question their safety. “These individuals preyed on people,” he said.
As part of their sentencing, Smith ordered the defendants to pay more than $3,000 restitution to their victims.
According to testimony during a week-long trial, Larkins was leaving the Pure service station on Fort Benning Road around midnight when a gunman beside the building ordered her to come to him, and a second gunman put a pistol to the back of her head as she was walking over.
As the robbers drove off in her car, others ran up to it and got in, she said.
Ransom was convicted in her robbery, but Dodson was not.
Around 8 p.m. that same day, Derrick Moore was talking to Walker outside a St. Mary’s Road business when Ransom drove up in the stolen Impala and four men got out. Dodson at gunpoint ordered him to get out of his car, and then one of the men hit him in the eye.
As his girlfriend pulled him away, Dodson tried to speed away in the Ford, but bounced over a curb and across a ditch, blowing out the two front tires. The car was abandoned not far away.
Both Ransom and Dodson were convicted in that case.
Prosecutor Wesley Lambertus said no one truly can gauge the long-term effect of that incident, as the shock and loss of the car likely kept Derrick Moore from pursuing his education: “It changed his life forever.”
Defense attorneys tried to persuade Smith to give each defendant 10 years to serve in prison, because that’s what prosecutors offered in a plea deal before the case went to trial.
Said Lambertus: “They chose not to own up to what they did. Ten years to serve is nothing for what happened.”