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Store where clerk died was in 'shambles'

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

JONESBORO — The convenience store where a clerk died in a shootout with three suspects in August 2011 was in "shambles" when police arrived, a Clayton County police detective testified Wednesday.

Detective Randy Brashears took the stand in the state's case against James Bertrum Hightower. Hightower, Sheldon Emory Brown and Otis Jamal Parker were charged in the armed robbery and shooting that killed Moe's Beer, Wine and Tobacco Outlet clerk Deon Causey and injured a second.

Parker, 23, and Brown, 25, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and murder and were sentenced this week to life in prison, said Clayton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Erman Tanjuatco. They are not expected to testify in Hightower's trial, he said.

Hightower, 25, was also shot during the robbery. Brashears testified to finding Hightower laying on the ground after he'd dragged himself through the store.

"The store was in shambles," said Brashears. "There were four or five firearms. There was alcohol poured across the floor, lots of blood stains where he'd dragged across the tiling. Bullets were flying everywhere inside that store and they hit the beer coolers, shattering glass."

Brown and Parker fled the scene but Hightower was injured.

"He wasn't able to use his leg to flee from the scene," said Brashears. "And he'd dropped his snub-nosed revolver."

Police said Hightower pulled $445 from the cash register before being shot. That money was recovered. Police said the trio robbed the store to get money to celebrate Parker's 22nd birthday.

The case is being prosecuted by Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green and co-counsel Jamanda Turner. Assisting with the trial is third-year law student Philip Curtis. Hightower is represented by Mawuli Davis.

Green said the medical examiner is expected to testify Thursday.