One of the four suspects arrested for allegedly killing an Auburn man and burning his body in Rockdale entered a guilty plea in DeKalb County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Tora Jefferson Reed, 34, of Lithonia was sentenced by Judge Mark Anthony Scott to life in prison, with credit for time served, in the felony murder of Martin Villa-Gomez, an electrician and father of two young children.
No statement was made by the defendant, but Reed’s attorney R. David Botts said, “I think Mr. Reed would like the court to know as well as the deputies and family, he’s not the one that killed the man. He’s here as party to the crime.”
A statement from Villa-Gomez’s wife Herlinda Rosales, was read by a translator as Rosales stood before the judge in tears.
“We were a very happy family, until the day of February 4, 2011. That morning, like every other morning, we said our goodbyes and left for work. I never thought that I would never see him again,” Rosales said.
“The loss of my husband has been so hard. Not only for me, it’s been very hard for our kids because he was an excellent dad and husband. It’s very hard when the kids question me, ‘Where’s Daddy?’ or when they say, ‘Mommy, what’s happened to Daddy?’ and I don’t have the correct answer. They have been the most affected with this situation.”
She concluded, “All I hope is that God forgives who was responsible for his death and for causing so much pain.”
Reed was scheduled to go to trial May 7, 2012. He was originally charged with three counts of felony murder, felony aggravated assault, and possession of firearm by a convicted criminal, but had one count of murder and the firearm possession charge dropped. He had reportedly also previously faced charges of burglary in 1997 out of DeKalb.
Gomez’s body was found by Rockdale County firefighters on Feb. 5, 2011 with two shots to the head in a burned out pickup truck on Turner Road near Abbott Road. Gomez’s wife reported that she had talked with him the afternoon before but he had not come home.
A cigarette butt found at the crime scene was collected and sent to the GBI to test for DNA. The test results recently came back with a match for Reed, according to Rockdale County Sheriff's Office Investigator Michael Camp.
Reed was the last of the four suspects arrested and was caught after a short chase by Marshals on May 17, 2011 in DeKalb County.
Three other suspects were arrested in February and March 2011 - Antonio Lindsey, 40, of Lithonia, Deodrick Ricardo Rivers, 32, of Ellenwood, and Kelton Perez Franklin, 37, of Snellville. These suspects were released on bond in 2011 after the case was transferred from Rockdale County to DeKalb County after investigators discovered the shooting allegedly occurred in DeKalb.