Two men bearing gang tattoos and a teenager charged in the killing of a pregnant Augusta woman probably knew each other through a street gang, Richmond County authorities said.
On Thursday, police were trying to determine which gang the men might be affiliated with. Ernest Bussey III, 21; Cardale D. Gibbons, 22; and Abdiel Acevedo, 15, of the 2500 block of Craven Drive, are charged in the abduction and death of Shanequa Carpenter, 24, who police say was strangled to death in front of her two small children. Her burning body was discovered by firefighters Sunday off Pebble Creek Road.
Mr. Bussey and Mr. Gibbons are charged with murder in the case. Mr. Acevedo, a sophomore at Glenn Hills High School, is charged with dumping the victim's car and abandoning the children off Deans Bridge Road. Mr. Gibbons is also charged with arson because police suspect he set Ms. Carpenter's body on fire.
Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said insignia tattooed on Mr. Bussey and Mr. Gibbons indicate some sort of gang affiliation, but he said it could represent various gangs.
According to Richmond County jail records, officers booking Mr. Gibbons noted that he had tattoos of the letters "TMB," "706," and "82 MOB."
Jail records for Mr. Bussey indicate he is tattooed with the letters "OG" and a picture of the grim reaper, in addition to tear drops on his face.
Asked about the meaning of the tattoos, former Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Billy Kitchens said the markings point to gang culture, though he also couldn't say which gang. He spoke about the tattoos' significance in general terms and was not told which case they relate to. Mr. Kitchens left the department last year and is now an investigator for the Richmond County public defender's office.
According to Mr. Kitchens, the grim reaper could mean the man is an "assassin" within the gang. He said tear drops could symbolize the number of people he has killed or show that he is in mourning for a slain associate. "OG" stands for "Original Gangster," a high-ranking gang member who has been involved in gang life for some time, Mr. Kitchens said.
As for the other man's tattoos, Mr. Kitchens said only "706" meant anything to him. The phone area code can be a way gang members represent their geographic area. Other gang members use "803" and "912," he said.
He couldn't say what the other tattoos meant. They might be the key to deciphering which gang police are dealing with, he said.
Mr. Acevedo appeared at a detention hearing Thursday in Richmond County Juvenile Court. Judge Herbert E. Kernaghan, citing the seriousness of the charges against him, refused to release him to his parents and returned him to the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center.
Mr. Acevedo is charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree and one count of concealing the death of another. He is charged as a juvenile, but the kidnapping charge makes his case open to the public under Georgia law.
Authorities said they believe Ms. Carpenter was strangled to death at Mr. Bussey's residence. Later, the men ordered the teenager to take Ms. Carpenter's two children, Alyssia, 11 months, and Isaiah, 2, and drop them off somewhere and burn Ms. Carpenter's 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
The hearing served as the rough equivalent of a bond hearing for an adult in Superior Court.
Edmundo Acevedo, the boy's father, would not comment to reporters outside the law enforcement center Thursday morning.
Judge Kernaghan also ordered a psychological evaluation for the 15-year-old suspect. According to his court-appointed attorney, Brendan Fleming, the youth has no previous criminal record. The state Department of Juvenile Justice has three days to draw up a petition against him - similar to an indictment - then within the following 10 days he will appear in juvenile court again to face the charges.
Maj. Autry said authorities did not have any indication that the order to take the children and burn the car (which was found intact) was part of a gang initiation.
He also said investigators hadn't found a motive in Ms. Carpenter's death.
Maj. Autry said Ms. Carpenter was not believed to have been a member of a gang.
He said investigators did not have a clear picture yet of who strangled her.
Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225.