20 years later: Getting away with murder
Author: Jessica Noll, Jon Shirek
Published: 11:51 PM EDT April 28, 2017
Updated: 11:33 AM EDT September 14, 2017
COLD-CASES 6 Articles

DISCLAIMER: This story may contain details that are disturbing for some readers.

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CONYERS, Ga. – Twenty years ago, two friends were gunned down on the side of the road, leaving behind their families, a future and the identity of who murdered them.

Two decades later, Conyers Police are still trying to crack the case and nab the culprits and now, they’re asking for the public’s help—offering a hefty cash reward.


20 years later: Getting away with murder

Chapter 1

The shooting | Thursday, May 1, 1997

Rasheed Rasul and Jermaine Johnson are staying at the Richfield Lodge in Conyers, Ga., with Johnson’s older brother —who is currently being held at the Rockdale County Jail.

The two teenage friends are hanging out at the motel with another man who notices that Rasul has a wad of cash on him, when two brothers from Covington, Ga., drive up just after 10 p.m. They invite all three to go for a drive with them.

Rasul slides the motel room key for room No. 304, into his left, blue PNB Nation Clothing Company jeans pocket—his yellow pager securely fastened to the same pocket, just below his woven, black belt. He, Johnson and the other man get into a car with the two brothers, who drive away with the teenagers a few miles away to Commerce Drive, just off Highway 138.

The road is isolated, dark and unknowing.

There’s a slight breeze, giving Johnson good reason to wear his blue Nike windbreaker to halt the slight chill.

It’s warm, in the 60s, and just a few weeks into spring. New blossoms are already sprouting. Weeds grow in abundance in the industrial park, and create the perfect spot to disguise or hide something or someone you don’t want found.

It’s just before midnight.

The two 19-year-olds, who are wearing matching gold and silver Guess watches, exit the vehicle.

A brawl begins and one of the men grabs Rasul’s shirt, ripping from his neck his wide, gold chain, with a bulldog pendant—a dead ringer for the gold bulldog ring on his right ring finger.

Without warning, shell casings begin spewing across the scene as one of the brothers begins to open fire.

As Rasul’s necklace falls to the curb, the man pulls a pistol up to Rasul’s face and shoots him twice, plowing through his cheek.

He falls to his knees, hitting the gravel and ultimately landing on his right cheek.

The others race to his limp body, scavenging and emptying his jeans’ pockets, leaving his body face down and his foot resting on the curb.

Blood drips from his head.

Seeing his friend’s unexpected and instant demise, Johnson bolts, running for his life—making it nearly 250 yards down the road. Two of the men take off, chasing him along the side of the road. One of the men shoots him in his back. The bullet plunges into one of his lungs, passes through his ribs, exits his chest and throws him to the ground.

The assailants catch up with him.

Standing over a fearful, but alive Johnson, the older brother shoots him twice in the face, puncturing his right eye and penetrating his brain. He then turns to his younger brother and directs him to finish the job.

At close range, the younger brother shoots Johnson in the forehead.

Together, they drag his body about 75 yards into the tall, overgrown weeds and leaving him beside a large tree, concealed from passersby.

The three men depart, leaving behind little evidence and zero remorse.

Chapter 2

The scene | Friday, May 2, 1997

A married couple drives down Commerce Drive, their normal short-cut to work, when they notice something unfamiliar on the side of the road.

“Look,” Carol Yantis said to her husband, Gary. “There is a body on the left-hand side of the road.”

Gary halted the car and looked towards the side of the road. That’s when, he said, he saw a young black male.

It’s Rasul.

His black and white Nike Air shoes are covered in blood; his white, red, white, black and gray-striped, short-sleeved shirt is soaked in blood; and his pockets turned inside out.

He’s dead.

Blood is caked into the dirt and pavement beneath him.

Without getting out of the car or touching anything, Gary instinctively drives to his office. Upon his hurried arrival, he tells his co-worker, George Greene, to call the police to report their grisly, early-morning discovery.

Greene tells Gary that he’s already aware and has contacted the police already.

6:25 a.m.

Conyers Police are dispatched, including officers Bill Schlegel and Brandon Morris. They arrive on the scene at Commerce Center at 6:31 a.m., and park where buses had parked for the Olympics the previous year.

Schlegel segregates the area, with bright, yellow crime scene tape, surrounding Rasul’s body to protect the crime scene and, with Schlegel, they block both entrances to the Commerce Center to all vehicles except for police.

Morris meets with the Yantis couple, who are standing by their car, about a dozen feet from the crime scene. As Morris approaches the man and woman, he catches a glimpse of the black male lying on his stomach, close to the curb, just off the road.

Schlegel takes measurements and photographs and sketches are made.

The medical examiner, Dr. Steve Dunton, turns over Rasul’s body and notes a bullet hole in his right cheek. He moves his body into a white sheet and bags his hands, securing them with tape.

The investigation begins.

Chapter 3

Remembering a young father, son, brother

“This is one of those cases… it’s that case that kind of haunts you and never leaves you,” David Spann, former Conyers Police Captain who investigated the case in the ’90s, said.

“[They] both wanted to be out of the home and try to make it on their own a little bit and had been doing OK, but the streets can be tough,” Spann said. “They were just young men who made a tragic mistake by leaving with three, very dangerous individuals. Two young men that were just getting started on their own in life and were, you know, viciously murdered,” Spann, who notified Rasul’s family the next day, said. The Rasuls and Spann have kept in touch—talking every few months, even now that he’s no longer with the police department.

“Cases like this don’t get better with time, they get worse over time, because witnesses go away, and memories fade. It’s going to be more difficult to prosecute the longer it goes,” Spann, who is now the city’s chief operating officer, said looking at photos with the family.

Something Rasheed’s sister, Kamilah Maddox, knows all too well since her daughter’s father was killed and his alleged killer walked free.

“My daughter’s father’s murderer walked. And that’s the worst feeling, going through a murder trial.”

Rasul’s father said that Rasheed was the guy in the family who kept everybody motivated and happy.

“Even when things was bad, he always tried to find the good in it,” he said, including creating a better future.

“He had took the test for the Navy, he passed the test, he was going into the Navy,” William Rasul said about his son.

He was desperate to start a new life, he said, for his sake and for the sake of his then-infant daughter, William said, who had talked to his son the day before.

Rasheed told his dad that he had $1,800 and was looking for a car.

“You know he wanted to be responsible for his daughter, you know he wanted to be responsible for his daughter, look out for him [and her] so, you know, he was ready to start handling his business the way he should.”

Maddox said her brother and Johnson had moved in with Johnson’s older brother, J.R., at the “crime-and-drug-infested, extended-stay motel” just weeks before he was brutally robbed and killed.

She was 15.

“I remember it just like yesterday, I went to school, had a very good day at school, and my phone started ringing.”

She took a deep breath before continuing.

“It was just… it was hard, because we started calling him, you know, and at the time we had pagers, so we were paging him,” she remembered, looking down at photos of Rasheed and his then-1-year-old daughter, Jordan.

“This reminds me like I just seen him yesterday,” she said. “It was devastating.”

His daughter, now 22, is a college graduate.

Chapter 4

The investigation

“Honestly, everybody knows who killed my brother,” Maddox said. “I didn’t ever believe it would make it to 20 years.”

And that’s 20 years of pain his family has endured, Williams said.

For two decades, police have known who killed Johnson and Rasheed. And they believe that for 20 years, those three people have gotten away with murder.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. And have, for 20 years,” Spann, who was appointed to commander in 1998 and oversaw the investigation, said. “We pretty quickly, were able to figure out who the three individuals were.”

In fact, they knew within days.

“One of the three suspects had a very violent criminal history leading up to this and was no stranger to robbing individuals on the street with weapons,” Spann revealed. “They took them out there with the intent to rob them, a scuffle ensued. He was shot twice in the face.”

While police spent hundreds of hours draining a nearby lake and dredging it, they never found the weapon.

Although, the men, who police believe, committed the crime, said that they drove the victims a short distance to a gas station and dropped them off, they deny killing and robbing them, Spann said.

However, a Conyers man confessed to the shootings, he said. He told police that he was just along for the ride to rob the two men, he didn’t think the others would kill them. The man took them to the crime scene and re-enacted the shooting, which matched physical evidence perfectly.

But he recanted his statement.

Now, they said, they need people with information to come forward.

“You just never know if there was something that somebody knew at the time that was afraid to come forward and provide us with some information,” he said. “We have had some people come forward, after the crime occurred, they were subsequently scared off a little bit.”

He’s kept a close eye on the three men the past 20 years and said that one of the brothers and the Conyers man have been in and out of prison.

Rockdale County District Attorney Richard Read said they believe they know who may have done this—but it’s not enough.

“Thinking we know what happened and proving what happened are two different things,” he said.

Read plans on asking the GBI crime lab to retest the shell casings from the crime scene and re-examine what limited crime scene physical evidence there is, using scientific lab tools and processes that weren’t available 20 years ago.

“…see if there is something with the advances in science that we can do today that might develop a connection to a potential suspect or suspects in this case,” Read said. “One of the things that labs have gotten much better in doing if finding minute amounts of DNA.”

Therefore, he said, if there’s a possibility they could go back do touch DNA, which he called the, the “minutest of DNA” that might be on the shell casings, they would have some of the evidence they need.

“We just gotta continue to push and probe and dig until we can connect all the dots so we can prove what happened,” Read said.

And he knows his job isn’t done until the case is solved and prosecuted with convictions and justice for the families.

“Our job’s not done. And so, we’ll keep working on it as long as we have a lead to pursue,” Read said. “And our job can’t be done until we achieve justice not only for the victims in this case, but their families, as well.”

“There is no statute of limitations on murder. I have two cases. I have two cold cases I keep in my office. This is one of them. It’s still an open investigation.”

Chapter 5

$10,000 reward at stake to catch killers

“Thus, far it’s been a, it’s been a very challenging and a frustrating case,” Read admitted.

It’s a case where, he said, they lack any real physical evidence that connects to suspects; it’s a case where they don’t have a murder weapon; and it’s a case where they don’t have a confession, or fingerprints, or a ballistics match, or a tire tracks match, or a foot track match. It’s a case, he said, relies on the community—who, 20 years ago, were too afraid to come forward.

“Hopefully, with the passage of time that fear has subsided—whether there’s a reward or not, hopefully that fear has subsided,” Read said about possible witnesses and tipsters. “Hopefully and we believe that there are people out there that have credible information that, if they would share with law enforcement, that we could have a successful prosecution.”

Rasheed’s father said people around town tell him they won’t say anything.

That’s the problem.

“‘Man, these some bad guys,’ that’s all they would say. ‘These some bad guys,’” he said.

And now, those “bad guys” are older, with families of their own, living their lives—while Johnson and Rasheed are dead, Maddox said.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re able to create families and move on with their lives, but you know what you did, and at this point I think… you should come to terms and you should turn yourself in.”

She had a message for those who killed her brother.

“How can you live with yourself? And by you moving on and having a family, just always remember, Rasheed was a father, he was a son, he’s a brother, he’s an uncle, he’s somebody’s family member, just like you. Who do you think you are to be able to take somebody’s life and take him away from his family and walk around like it never happened?”

And then, she pleaded with the public.

“Even if you know a little bit of the story, just anything that can help us, that would be just the best thing, ever, for our family. It’s not going to bring Rasheed back, but it would, at least give us some type of closure. Maybe one day somebody will get a conscience and they will get right with themselves, and they’ll tell what they know,” Maddox said.

Spann said witnesses back then, who might have testified against the three men, have always been too scared to come forward. But now, he’s hoping that with a Crime Stoppers reward for $10,000, might give them the encouragement.

He, for one, has never given up that they will be caught and prosecuted.

“I hope to, one day, to be able to pick up the phone and call Mr. Rasul and tell him that we have people in custody.”

Chapter 6

A family wants closure

“He’s someone that’s always going to be remembered as… a good person. He was a good father for the time he was here, and he did not deserve to die and be found the way he was,” Maddox said.

Now, Rasheed would be a grandfather.

“It would be fair to tell them that your dad, he passed away, but the bad guys were caught,” she said.

His father wants closure.

“I mean that was my only son I had, you know, I’m blessed with two, beautiful daughters,” William said. “Mentally, I deal with this day to day.”

“[I] don’t want the death penalty, just want these guys to be put into prison and let them sit and finish rotting and thinking about what they did. It’s senseless. You don’t go and take someone’s life. And just keep walking around the streets like it’s no big deal.”

His sister, now in her 30s, wiped a tear from her eye.

“I miss him,” she said. “I just miss hearing his voice; some of the things that I’ve gone through in life, needing my sibling.”

Police have not released any of the suspects’ identities.

If you have any information, contact Crime Stoppers, anonymously at, (404) 577-TIPS.

This story was reported with several interviews, including the victim's family members, investigators and the district attorney—and used documents, like the police report, autopsy reports and others, to obtain details for the narrative.