LAWRENCEVILLE -- A few weeks before Christmas in 2003, Gwinnett police officers went to an apartment complex off Medlock Bridge Road near Norcross to check on Aisha Davis, a 30-year-old mother of one whose family had grown worried about her.
Davis was preparing to move in with her sister in Acworth, and she was pulling together money to buy a bicycle for her 4-year-old daughter's birthday. She hadn't responded to family members' calls.
Police found Davis dead on her bedroom floor, concealed under a pile of clothes. She'd been stabbed more than 20 times.
From the beginning, investigators said the culprit was likely someone who knew Davis. Other residents in the Alexander Apartments were extensively questioned, but no suspects were named -- until, two years later, DNA from a drop of blood found at the murder scene matched DNA in a national database.
That drop of blood linked an Indiana prison inmate named Anton "Blackie" Johnson, 34, to the Norcross apartment, authorities said. He'd been convicted of fatally shooting two women south of Chicago the same year of Davis' death. And he had formerly lived in Davis' apartment complex.
Six years after that DNA hit, Johnson is back in Gwinnett County to stand trial for murder. He was booked at the Gwinnett County Jail on Saturday.
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said he's considering seeking the death penalty for Johnson, given his murderous history and the brutality of Davis' death. Similarities in the three women's slayings could factor into Porter's decision, he said.
At issue in the intervening years was the question of whether it's worth the safety risk -- and the expenditure of county resources -- to try a man who was essentially sentenced to life in prison elsewhere. Prosecuting Johnson meant transporting a violent felon some 700 miles. Someone facing a life sentence or death penalty has nothing to lose in an attempted escape, the logic goes.
"Looking at this crime, and the nature of the crime, we decided the risk was justified," Porter said.
Lawrenceville attorney Stacy Levy, who has been appointed to represent Johnson, said he plans to waive a June 8 arraignment where he'd be expected to enter a plea.
Porter said it's too early to estimate when the case might be up for trial. A Gwinnett grand jury indicted Johnson in January on two counts of murder.
Indiana Department of Correction records show Johnson was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and murder for the January 2003 killings of his girlfriend, Regina West, 30, and an acquaintance, Tasha Johnson, 30, at West's townhome in Gary, Ind. He was sentenced in 2005 to 95 years in prison, with a projected release date of September 2054, when he would be age 76.
According to Indiana court documents, Johnson shot Tasha Johnson (no relation) three times when she asked him about an outstanding debt to her. West ran from the home and hid under a parked car. Johnson, following, asked his girlfriend, "Baby, is that your woman?" in reference to his first victim. Then he shot her six times.
Porter decided to prosecute Johnson after consulting several months ago with Davis' two sisters. Neither could be reached this week for comment. "They're supportive," Porter said. "They don't want him to get anything less than life without parole."
Following the DNA hit in 2006, Davis' sister Afia Stevens, of Maryland, told the Daily Post she would have been disappointed if her sister's killer was never brought to justice. However, Stevens said she had trepidations about supporting the death penalty for Johnson.
"What's really my main concern is that in 40 or 50 years, when he is up for parole, while I believe the likelihood of him being granted parole is slim, I'd still like to be assured that he's never going to leave prison," Stevens said then.
Davis was living alone at the time of her death. Authorities have said she knew Johnson. Her daughter was in the temporary custody of an ex-boyfriend elsewhere in Norcross, family member said at the time.
"This is someone who barely knew my sister," Stevens said. "I wish he could know what he took from us."
If convicted of Davis' murder, where Johnson serves his time would depend on his punishment. He would serve a life sentence for Davis' killing in Indiana, while technically getting credit in Georgia for time served.
"Usually a death penalty supersedes the other sentence, meaning that Georgia would keep him," Porter said.