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Atlanta: Ethiopian businessman’s killer on trial

By ANDRIA SIMMONS | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

GWINNETT COUNTRY, GA — Tedla Lemma came to this country seeking a better life and political asylum from the former communist government in Ethiopia.

But for Lemma at least, America was not a land of safety or opportunity. It was a country where he would toil as a cashier for up to 17 hours a day. He saved nearly every penny, only to fall prey three times to violent robbers and die at their hands on March 25, 2008.

That was testimony given on Tuesday by Lemma’s brother, Sirak Lemma, in the Gwinnett County trial for one of the alleged killers, Quincy Marcel Jackson.

Jackson, 27, of Riverdale, and four other suspects are accused of committing three home invasion robberies between late 2007 and early 2008.

Lemma had been robbed and shot in the head during an unrelated robbery in 1993, while working as a convenience store cashier in downtown Atlanta. The injury left him paralyzed on the left side of his body and unable to work.

Two of the robberies Jackson and his cronies allegedly committed were at the house that Tedla Lemma shared with his brother’s family in Lilburn, a suburb of Atlanta. A third home invasion occurred in nearby Stone Mountain.

With each new robbery, the violence escalated from home invasion to kidnapping and finally to murder, according to Gwinnett prosecutor Christa Kirk. The intruders bound Lemma’s hands and gagged him so tightly that he suffocated.

Defense attorney Matt Crosby said police “rushed to judgement” when they arrested Jackson. There is no forensic evidence linking him to the robberies. Crosby said a codefendant, Lorna Araya, 25, actually orchestrated the crimes.

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