By Ed Brock
In a hearing Thursday a police investigator described a seedy world of drug users sharing a car stolen from a Forest Park woman who was found strangled to death in her home.
Two men have been arrested in the case, but neither Benny Earl Kimbrough, 35, nor Franklin Hudson Jr., 33, have been charged with murder in connection with the death of 48-year-old Ramatoulie Demba. Her body was found July 11 in her home on Boca Grande Boulevard. But Kimbrough has been charged with burglary and theft by taking in connection with the break-in that ended in Demba's death and on Thursday both men were in court for Kimbrough's preliminary hearing.
Hudson waived his preliminary hearing on a charge of receiving stolen property that was made against him when police found him in possession of Demba's car the day after Demba's body was found. The case against Kimbrough was bound over to the grand jury for indictment consideration following his lengthy hearing.
Shortly after his arrest Hudson told police that somebody else had given him the car but he couldn't remember that person's name, said Clayton County Police Detective Frank Thomas in his testimony at the hearing. But Hudson said that if police found a third man then that man could identify Kimbrough.
In his testimony Thomas talked about how police went through at least two other men to find out Kimbrough's identity. Thomas described the world in which the men lived as a loose affiliation of drug users who passed the stolen vehicle around among themselves.
"Most everybody in this case are crack users, including Mr. Kimbrough," Thomas said.
Thomas said the two other witnesses in the case, who have not been charged with a crime, told police that they saw Kimbrough in possession of several items that had been taken from Demba's house, including a television, a camera, some jewelry and an African style dress. Demba was a native of Gambia in West Africa.
One witness told police he saw Kimbrough about four hours after Demba was last known to be alive, going through a woman's purse while standing in front of Demba's car, Thomas said. Kimbrough supposedly told the witness that he had gotten the purse from a "lick," or burglary.
The witness said that later Kimbrough told him he was going back to the scene of the "lick" to get more things and the witness asked if he could come along, Thomas said.
"(Kimbrough) said no, it's too hard for you," Thomas said. "We believe at that point Ms. Denba was already dead and (Kimbrough) didn't want anybody else to see it."
Thomas also said that they are still waiting for analysis of about 20 fingerprints taken from the house and for DNA tests of a bloodstained napkin found in the house. Kimbrough had a fresh cut on his hand when he was arrested, Thomas said.
Detective Scott Eskew testified that Kimbrough admitted during police questioning that he had been in possession of Demba's car, but he admitted to nothing else.
"?I will not confess,' he said," said Eskew.
Hudson, who identified Kimbrough in a photo lineup as the man who gave Demba's car to him, also testified. He said he saw Kimbrough at a gas station one night a couple of days before Demba's body was found.
"He said I got you a ride so I can ride you around," Hudson said.
Hudson said he later rode in the car with Kimbrough and some other people to a friend's house in west Atlanta and eventually wound up in possession of the keys to the car. He said he didn't think the car was stolen until the night he was arrested at the Chamblee Inn on Old Dixie Highway, about two miles from Demba's house.
He also said that Kimbrough talked to him while they were in the holding cell together prior to the hearing Thursday and told him he had gotten the car from "some white guy."
Hudson took umbrage when Kimbrough's attorney Marvin Chapman told him that Thomas had said Hudson and the others used drugs. Hudson said that accusation was "disrespectful."
Hudson also talked about his reaction when police told him that Demba had been murdered.
"Somebody who did this, their (expletive) needs to be prosecuted, to end somebody's life, to stop somebody's life," Hudson said.
Chapman questioned Hudson on whether he had been offered a deal to testify, and Hudson said he had been offered a reduced sentence of probation for the charge against him along with lowered bail.
"I said I would testify, not because of some deal, but to do the right thing," Hudson said.
Hudson's sister Sandra Pye of Jonesboro was at the hearing.
"I know my brother and he's not a murderer," Pye said.
A number of Demba's friends also came to the hearing, including her cousin Jeffrey Scott of Gainesville. Scott said Demba's killing has been hard on her family, especially her mother and son who are still in Gambia, but "they're doing pretty good."