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Teen given life sentence in taxi driver's murder

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 19-year-old was convicted of murder and sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison, in Clayton County Superior Court.

Abdoulaye Keita, of Forest Park, shot Emanuel Abuna, a 29-year-old Yellow Cab driver, twice in the back, once in the hand and once in the chest, at 8:45 on a Wednesday morning in October 2006.

Clayton County Police responded to the scene, on Old Dixie Road, when the cab crossed from the southbound to the northbound side of the road and crashed into some trees. Neighbors reported hearing a number of gunshots, and seeing a man climb from the back of the Yellow Cab and run away. They said the driver climbed out the back of the cab, too, tried to walk away, but collapsed.

Abuna -- a native of Cameroon who had served in the United States Military during the Gulf War -- was pronounced dead at the scene. A father of two, who was also financially helping his eight brothers and one sister, Abuna had only recently begun driving the taxi.

According to the taxi dispatcher, at the time of the shooting, Abuna probably had about $20 on him at the time of his death. His shift had ended seven hours before he picked up the man who would kill him. He was working overtime.

Prosecutor Bill Dixon said Abuna picked Keita up at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Keita had stolen some luggage from the airport, court documents show, and then hailed the taxi and asked to be driven back to the Forest Park area, where he lived.

When the vehicle got to Old Dixie, though, the 19-year-old said he didn't have money for the fare and the 29-year-old threatened to turn around and return to the airport, Dixon said.

"It was a very tragic, senseless death," said Jewel Scott, Clayton County's district attorney.

Defense Attorney, John Beall,suggested, during his closing arguments, that it might not have been a murder, but could have been a struggle over a gun, which could have accidentally gone off.

Though Keita did not testify on his own behalf during the trial, he made a statement during the sentencing hearing.

"It was a fairly long, rambling statement, where he tried to blame the victim for the killing," Dixon said. According to Keita, the taxi driver pulled the gun on him and it went off with Keita trying to disarm him.

Keita was arrested while knocking on doors, in the neighborhood, asking to be let inside. He had blood on his pants that matched the DNA of Abuna's blood.

A jury found him guilty on all counts, Wednesday. He will be eligible for parole after about 33 years.