Man sentenced to 36 years in prison for West Ashley murder

Man sentenced to 36 years in prison for West Ashley murder

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to 36 years in prison for a 2011 murder in West Ashley.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said a Charleston County jury found Devin Johnson guilty of murder Thursday morning following a 3-day trial.

“I’m just really proud of the work done on this case by the Charleston Police Department, particularly Sergeant Craig Kosarko and former Detective David Osborne, and my prosecutors," Wilson said." Upon arrival at the scene, this case had all of the markings of one that could very well go unsolved, but thorough investigation and a detail-oriented approach led them to the right guy, even though he was about 75 miles away mere hours after the killing.”

Prosecutors say the deadly shooting happened on the night of June 8, 2011, in the Georgetown Apartment Complex in West Ashley.

Authorities say Aakeem Smalls was spending time at the second story apartment of his girlfriend.  Around 10 p.m., Smalls left the apartment to visit a friend, but was met at the bottom of a stairwell by his girlfriend’s brother, Devin Johnson, and another unidentified male, according to prosecutors.

Four shots from a 9mm handgun were fired at Aakeem, one of which struck him in the middle back.

Investigators say surveillance video showed Aakeem fled from the scene after being shot and ran through two apartment buildings before jumping a fence and finally stopping in a construction site of a nearby home.  Police and other first responders followed a trail of blood to that location, where they found Aakeem in serious condition.  He later died at a nearby hospital.

Witnesses told police that two unknown black males backed into a parking place near the crime scene minutes before the shooting in a blue or black Toyota Camry.  Prosecutors say security surveillance recordings confirmed these accounts, and revealed that the Camry was missing a back passenger-side hubcap.

Database searches revealed that Johnson’s girlfriend was the owner of a Toyota Camry and that, though she lived in Orangeburg with Johnson, she worked in Charleston.  An interview with the girlfriend, who was unaware of Johnson’s involvement, revealed that he had ridden to Charleston with her on the day of the murder, and was driving her car at the time of the murder.  Her Toyota was missing a back passenger-side hubcap.

According to authorities, search warrants executed on the defendant’s cell phone records confirmed his location in Charleston and contained several damning text messages revealing his plan to shoot someone that evening in Charleston.

In one text message, prosecutors say Johnson told a friend that he was going to “wet the dude up tonight,” an expression defined by both lay testimony, law enforcement testimony, and the urban dictionary website as “to shoot or stab someone, causing them to bleed.”  Days after the murder, an unfired bullet was also located in Johnson’s sister’s apartment.  A fingerprint taken from the bullet matched Johnson.  The bullet was the same caliber, length, and brand name as those fired at Aakeem Smalls.

Upon being tracked down by CPD and the U.S. Marshall’s task force, Johnson agreed to speak with police. For hours, prosecutors say he continued to insist that he was at home in Orangeburg the entire day of the murder, until finally conceding that it was him in the video, but claiming that he just happened to walk up on a stranger shooting the victim.

Johnson claimed his flight from the scene and the Charleston area was due only to his fear at what he witnessed. Gas station video from shortly after the crime, however, shows him joking with a cashier, in an apparent jovial mood.  The same video shows that his clothing the night of the murder was consistent with the person seen on the apartment security videos.

“I hope the work of all the officers, the Solicitor’s Office investigators, and the lawyers involved can now give some sense of closure to a very nice family who has patiently waited for some time for the justice they deserve,” Simpson added.  Aakeem Smalls, who turned 22 four days before he was killed, is survived by his parents, Mrs. Phyllis Smalls and Mr. Miles Smalls, and his sister, Montana Smalls.  All were present for the verdict this morning.

The defendant had previous criminal convictions for Marijuana Possession, Financial Card Theft, Breaking and Entering a Motor Vehicle, Criminal Conspiracy, Resisting Arrest, and Receiving Stolen Goods.

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