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Suspects in slaying may have robbed Gwinnett Waffle Houses

BUFORD -- Gwinnett police are investigating the possibility that a rash of Waffle House robberies near Buford is the work of a crew accused of killing a security guard from Winder this week.

Three Buford locations of the Gwinnett-based chain restaurant were targeted by robbers in August. In each instance, the masked robbers brandished guns and then fled on foot.

Forsyth authorities said members of the alleged five-man crew -- which includes two Buford teens -- held up a Waffle House in that county Aug. 25 and a gas station the following day. Their actions turned deadly Sunday when they shot security guard David Casto, 37, execution-style at an Ingles grocery they were robbing in Cumming, officials said.

Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Brian Kelly stressed that an investigation is just beginning and that detectives have not developed probable cause to charge the suspects locally.

"It's too soon to say with certainty that the crimes are connected," Kelly said. "They share commonalities that definitely give rise to suspicion."

Here are synopses of the three Buford incidents:

* About 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 17, two men in black, their faces shrouded by shirts, stormed in a Waffle House at 1570 Buford Highway demanding money, witnesses told police. One man carried a shotgun. They fled after failing to open a cash register.

* Five minutes after midnight on Aug. 18, witnesses reported two black-clad men with shirts over their heads carried a shotgun while demanding money at a 3310 Hamilton Mill Road restaurant. Both wore bandannas over their faces. An employee emptied a register into a plastic bag and the suspects fled, according to a Gwinnett police report.

* About 1 a.m. Aug. 31, a lone, bandanna-wearing bandit ordered an employee on break into a 3829 Buford Drive location, a handgun at his back. The robber ordered a register be dumped into a to-go bag and fled, the employee said.

Forsyth authorities said the latest suspect apprehended, Darren Slayton, 18, of Cumming, was not involved in the Ingles heist and slaying.

Charged with murder and armed robbery are Nakitta J. Holmes, 19, of Buford, Sharod Johnson, 18, and Tyrice Adside, 18, both of Cumming. An unnamed 16-year-old from Buford was also charged.

All remain in custody in Forsyth County, where officials announced a $2,000 reward Thursday for information leading to weapons used in Casto's murder.

Officials urge anyone with information to call the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office criminal investigations division at 770-781-2200.