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Christmas Day Closure: Family wants answers in the murder of Clayton County grandfather

Derrick Elie was gunned down in the driveway of his Riverdale, Georgia home in September, while working in his garage.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — In the African-American community, when someone is referred to as “Auntie” or “Uncle” it is a sign of deep-respect, rooted in that person’s history and relationship to the community.

In the case of father and grandfather Derrick Elie, he was warmly referred to as “Unk,” not just by those in the Atlanta neighborhood he called home, but by Atlanta’s celebrity elite. An Atlanta fixture at events - in studios and functions - Elie, pronounced "Eli," served as a bodyguard to the “Who’s Who” in celebrity circles.

For Dior Elie, Derrick Elie’s middle son, his dad guarded his heart always, keeping his best interest in mind.

“My dad was my best friend. He never judged me,” Dior said.

Dior speaking about his dad in the past tense isn’t something he or his five siblings would’ve imagined. Not now. Not for a long time.

The 63-year-old was at the prime of his life, according to family. His Instagram account (which begins with the handle “Unk” - short for uncle) shows his chiseled physique dressed to the nines. Rubbing elbows with hip-hop royalty and boasting more than 11,000 followers. 

A rare leader among men, family said. 

So, when Elie was gunned down in his Riverdale, Georgia garage on Sept. 29, his family was left with more questions than answers.

“We never saw it coming. And not even him," Dior said. 

"He didn’t even see it coming because he was shot behind his back, while he was waxing his car. In his garage,” he added.

According to the Clayton County Police Department, who is handling the case, Elie’s fiancée found him in their garage after returning home from the store. She told them she’d just spoken to him by phone 10 to 15 minutes prior to finding him in a pool of his own blood.

An incident report said when officers did a sweep of the home, they did not find anyone inside. But they did find “three of the bedrooms ransacked, and there were dressers thrown on the floor, clothes were every where (sic) inside the room and dresser drawers open.” The report went on to say responding officers noticed, “two cushions laying on the floor in what seemed to the living room.” 

Strangely enough, the rest of the home, according to police, had not been touched.


When Wanda Smith, of V-103’s former and famed “Frank Ski and Wanda Smith Morning” show, moved to Atlanta in 1991, she was working the comedy circuit trying to build a name for herself in the up-and-coming entertainment capital of the south. 

One night, while working and doing comedy at the now-defunct hotspot, Café Eschelon, on Memorial Drive, Smith met Elie through his girlfriend, who also worked there. She described him as a person who “everybody liked” and “was just a nice guy.” She spoke to 11Alive’s Deborah Tuff by phone.

“One day, he asked me if I needed bodyguard help," Smith recalled. "I watched his demeanor, and he was a man, man. There was no guessing, he was an Alpha Male."

So began a decades-long friendship where Elie guarded Smith – even during the most viral moments. He had her back, she said. She considered him family. So, when she got the call that he was murdered, she, too, couldn’t believe it.

Justice And Answers 

Neither could those who knew him best.

“He didn’t deserve this at all," Dior said. "He was the type who would give you the shirt off his back. He’s a mentor to a lot of people, and it’s a senseless act."

As the three-month anniversary of his death gets closer, his family wants a gift that can’t be wrapped under the Christmas tree or decorated with wrapping paper and pretty bows. They said they want the hard truth and some type of closure so they can begin the healing process they want and believe they deserve.

“You don’t die from COVID, you do everything right, and you die while waxing your car? I want answers and I want justice,” Dior said.

11Alive reached out to the Clayton County Police Department for any updates pertaining to this case, but didn't get a response back. 

If anyone has any information regarding to the death of Derrick Elie, they're asked to call police.


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