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Jury reaches verdict on Columbus man accused of killing janitor with sucker punch

Defendant shakes his head as witness describes fatal punch thrown during 2016 Labor Day cookout

Merrick Redding, who faces murder charges in the death of Joseph Davis, shook his head in court as a witness described how Redding landed the fatal punch to Davis' head during a Labor Day 2016 cookout
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Merrick Redding, who faces murder charges in the death of Joseph Davis, shook his head in court as a witness described how Redding landed the fatal punch to Davis' head during a Labor Day 2016 cookout

Merrick Emory Redding faces life in prison after a jury convicted him Monday of killing a local high school janitor with a sucker punch during a 2016 Labor Day cookout.

After about two hours’ deliberation, the jury Monday found Redding guilty of felony murder and aggravated assault in the attack on Joseph Davis around 3:30 p.m. Sept. 5, 2016, at 2342 Bond Ave., in Columbus’ Oakland Park neighborhood off South Lumpkin Road.

Prosecutor Ray Daniel said Judge Bobby Peters must sentence Redding either to life in prison with possible parole after 30 years or to life without parole. Because of Redding’s criminal history, Daniel said he will ask for life without parole.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Testimony showed Redding had been using drugs at a house across the street from the Bond Avenue home where Davis was grilling food, and the woman who lived there kicked him out. So Redding walked over to the barbecue, where he began to bully Davis, who was cooking by a pickup truck under a carport.

Witnesses said Redding appeared to be drunk when, with no apparent provocation, he abruptly called Davis a “p---y m----r f----r,” twice.

Davis initially was wary of Redding, fearing he’d be hit, but eventually he let his guard down, investigators said. That’s when Redding punched him hard in the face, and Davis fell onto the concrete driveway.

First responders found him unconscious, and rushed him to The Midtown Medical Center, now Piedmont Columbus Regional. Later the 47-year-old was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he died from head trauma the next day.

He was a janitor at Columbus’ Northside High School, where students and staff mourned his passing.

Redding, who’s now 53, had left Bond Avenue by the time police arrived, so they obtained warrants for his arrest. He turned himself in a week later.

The preliminary hearing for the man suspected of killing a Northside High School janitor at a Labor Day barbecue was postponed. Merrick Emory Redding, 51, was scheduled to appear in Columbus Recorder’s Court Tuesday at 9 a.m. The judge postponed t

During Redding’s preliminary hearing in Columbus Recorder’s Court on Sept. 14, 2015, police Cpl. Donna Baker said witnesses told investigators Davis was leaning against the pickup truck as he and Redding talked, and then Davis raised an arm as if “preventing Redding from striking him.”

Baker added: “Once Mr. Davis lowered his arm, Mr. Redding acted as if he was about to walk away. Then he turned around and struck Mr. Davis on the side of his face. At which point in time, Mr. Davis fell to the ground.”

The jury found Redding not guilty of malice or deliberate murder, but guilty of felony murder for causing Davis’ death while committing the felony of aggravated assault, and of aggravated assault. Redding was represented by defense attorney Kennon Peebles Jr. of Duluth, Ga.

Daniel filed pretrial documents outlining Redding’s previous offenses, which dated back to a burglary conviction in 1982.

His other cases included theft by receiving stolen property, in 1987 and in 1993; escape in 1998; being a habitual violator in 2003 and 2015; and obstructing a law enforcement officer in 2009, according to court records.

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