Murder charges dismissed in Norcross hotel homicide

Brandy Leeanne Coker

Brandy Leeanne Coker


Tony "Polo" Craig

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Murder charges against one suspect in a June hotel homicide have been dismissed -- but they may not be gone for good.

Brandy Leeanne Coker, 26, was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault on June 8, two days after the body of 33-year-old Dewayne Jackson was found at a Norcross motel. Though Gwinnett County police have named Tony "Polo" Craig as the "primary suspect" in Jackson's murder, they said Coker was connected to the crime as well.

Though the Conyers woman remained at the Gwinnett County jail Tuesday -- thanks to a hold for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office -- it appears she's no longer staring down a capital offense.

According to court records, the murder and aggravated assault charges filed against Coker were dismissed on Friday, presumably the result of a hearing held the day before. Records show she's now been charged with making false statements.

The new count is still a felony, but one that carries "only" a one- to five-year sentence upon conviction.

Assistant District Attorney Rich Vandever, who is handling the case for the county, said it appeared the original charges were dismissed in magistrate court. He said Tuesday he wasn't aware why but that the action "by no means kills the case."

"That doesn't mean all the charges are necessarily going away," Vandever said, adding that he hoped to learn more about the case in general in coming weeks.

Dawn H. Taylor, Coker's defense attorney, said the charges were not bound over to Superior Court during last week's probable cause hearing.

" ... (After) the testimony of the lead detective, I made the argument that there was insufficient probable cause for the warrants and that my client neither directly committed the crime nor was a party to it," Taylor wrote in an email. "The Judge agreed with me."

Taylor said the new warrants for false statements were issued the evening after the trial.

A Gwinnett County police spokesman deferred comment to the district attorney's office.

Jackson, a Decatur resident, was found dead inside the motel at 5885 Oakbrook Parkway on the afternoon of June 6.

"He was apparently deceased from gunshot wounds," police said at the time.

Authorities have released few other details about the homicide but did say it was not believed to be a random act. They also pointed out that Jackson was arrested last October for a robbery at the Motel 6 located next to the Ramada where his body was found, but did not make a direct connection.

Police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter said that there was "no indication" that Tony Craig, the other suspect in Jackson's murder, had been picked up as of Tuesday afternoon. The 26-year-old black male is about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds and had hair in small braids or cornrows, though authorities believe it may have been cut short following the incident.

Possibly driving a black 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix, Craig is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 770-513-5300; anyone who comes into contact with him should call 911.