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Fatal rift?
Acquaintances say Donny Edouard's best friend killed him last weekend

DACULA - To his friends, Donny Edouard was a priorities-first thinker, a loyalist to everyone and a young father bent on raising his infant daughter right.

They say his chief counterpart is a different story.

Edouard, 20, was practically joined at the hip with his old Dacula High School chum Devin Grell - the 20-year-old man accused of firing a shot into Edouard's head last weekend, killing him at home, a friend said.

"This makes no sense," said Edouard's acquaintance, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's crazy because they were best friends."

When the alleged shooting happened, Edouard was at home - a spacious two-story on the eastern fringes of Lawrenceville - with his younger sister, a cousin and his father, as well as his friend Brianna Morgan, 18, the friend claims. Grell stopped by the home and began arguing with Edouard "over something that was not worth killing somebody over," and as Edouard turned away, Grell produced a handgun and fired into his friend's head, she said.

The friend scoffed at the notion that the tiff was a drug deal gone sour, as neighbors had suggested.

"This was not about drugs," she said. "That is false."

Police said Grell then shot his second victim - Morgan - twice with the same gun. She was struck in the ear and back, but was expected to be released from an area hospital this week, the friend said.

The hunt for an alleged gunman didn't last long. Gwinnett police apprehended Grell at his Uniwattee Trail home within 24 hours of the double shooting.

The victim's friend said Grell had anger management issues.

"It's like he had to destroy something or hurt somebody when he gets mad," she said.

The suspect's father, Gerard Grell, said this week he was "not doing very good" but declined further comment.

Lingering issues?

Grell had been a free man for only five months before his arrest last Saturday.

According to Gwinnett Superior Court records, Grell was incarcerated for more than four years for stabbing a fellow Dacula student in the abdomen at school, a wound deep enough that more than a foot of the victim's intestines had to be removed. The stabbing happened Aug. 15, 2003, two weeks from Grell's 16th birthday.

Minutes after a judge imposed a sentence of six years, Grell's mother, Darnyelle Grell, wept quietly as she told reporters the sentence was fair.

"The main thing is that my son's psychological needs be addressed," she said at the time. "He is a good boy; he just lost his way that day.

"I am hopeful that boy will get some help."

As Grell pleaded guilty to the stabbing, his attorneys told Judge Tim Hamil their client had anger management issues that needed to be addressed. Hamil ruled, as part of his sentencing, that Grell would undergo psychological treatment. An order was signed in December 2004 allowing a doctor to visit Grell at the Gwinnett County Jail.

The results of that evaluation were never filed with the judge's office, a representative said this week.

Friendship, fractured

Like any friend, Edouard frequently visited Grell in jail, offering words of support. When Grell was paroled in February this year, his best friend was waiting - eager to take Grell shopping to reacclimate him with society, Edouard's friend said.

Edouard dropped out of Dacula High School to take a position as a mover at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, determined to support his 2-year-old daughter. At the time of his murder, he was attending summer school at Faith Academy in Buford, scheduled to graduate in December.

Debbie Dispain, assistant administrator at Faith Academy, said Edouard's diploma could be awarded posthumously to his family.

"We're very saddened by the news," Dispain said. "He was very soft spoken, very well-mannered - a nice fella. He never caused any problems whatsoever."

Grell is charged with murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon during the commission of a crime.

Further insight into the alleged murder could come Tuesday morning, when Grell is scheduled to appear in Gwinnett Magistrate Court for a probable cause hearing. He remains in jail without bond.

"(Edouard) was a great guy - nobody deserves that," his friend said. "He had his priorities straight.

"People are crazy these days."