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Slack convicted of murder
Motive still a mystery in shooting death

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Jonathan Lavonta Slack fired the bullet that killed Travis Scott, a Clayton County jury has found.

Scott was shot once in the head, according to evidence introduced in court. The 9 mm bullet that took the 18-year-old's life entered his right temple and exited out the other side, cracking his skull and destroying his brain.

The bullet went into the wall by the refrigerator, smashed through the Sheetrock and the insulation, coming out and denting a picture frame in a College Park apartment.

But, even after all the testimony, the autopsy evidence, the ballistics evidence, the crime scene analysis, and Slack's conviction, it remains unclear why the shot was fired.

"For no reason" is what arrest warrants filed for 21-year-old Slack's arrest said. A Clayton County detective, testifying in the case, said he didn't know "what was the spark."

In closing arguments, the prosecutor said there may not have been any motivation for the murder. She likened the lack of an explanation to misbehaving children, who, when asked why they did something silly or stupid replied, "I dunno."

There doesn't seem to be any explanation, said prosecutor Dawn Belisel-Skinner. She said the shooting was senseless.

The 18-year-old, Travis Scott, a member of the Hit Squad gang, reportedly was fixing himself a drink at about 6 a.m., when Slack shot him to death.

According to eyewitnesses, Slack had a TEC-9, a semi-automatic that looks like a little machine gun, and he held it sideways, the way gangsters do in rap videos and in Hong Kong action movies.

He then, the witnesses said, walked out of the kitchen, with the gun in his hand "like nothing happened."

The two had been playing cards, drinking, "popping pills" and smoking marijuana at Brookstone Apartments, unit B-4, according to testimony in the murder trial.

Slack was sort of living there, with the older woman who rented the place, and Scott was dating the woman's niece, and hanging out with the Hit Squad gang -- teens who frequented the apartment.

The party lasted all weekend, and on that night, there were about 15 young men, a number that dwindled to six or seven as the night wore on.

The two women were out of the apartment when the shooting happened, and the men in the apartment gave conflicting accounts that only aligned on the identity of the shooter -- Jonathan Slack.

Murder motives mentioned, and then left unsupported and unconfirmed, included an argument about a debt, an argument about a gun, disrespect and drug use.

One of the men fleeing the scene of the shooting reportedly said, "That [expletive] went crazy and shot us for no reason."

Belisel-Skinner said it didn't, in the end, matter if there was a reason.

"That is not the issue," she told the jury. "You're not here to know why, or figure out why ... It is what it is. It's that simple. Did he, or did he not, shoot Travis Scott on that day?"

The jury said he did, after their deliberations. Slack was found guilty on all counts and Clayton County Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons sentenced him to life in prison, plus five years probation. He will be eligible to apply for parole in 2037, when he is 50 years old.