The Georgia Supreme Court has denied the appeals of two Rome men convicted of killing a Summerville convenience store clerk in a 2016 robbery.
On Jan. 15, 2016, Dylon Allen and Zaykives McCray caught a ride to Summerville and then another to an abandoned house near the Melanie Inn, a convenience store.
Around 9 p.m. that night the store’s surveillance system showed two masked men entering the store. One of the men knocked a customer down and the other fired a shot at Chiragkumar Patel, which struck him in the abdomen.
They both jumped over the counter, filling a blue bag with cigars, cigarettes and snacks. Then McCray asked Patel where the money was located.
“Patel did not respond, so the men began to beat Patel and continued to do so as they threatened to kill Patel if he did not open the cash register,” a case summary stated.
Surveillance video showed one of the men had a triangular birthmark on his right wrist — similar to a birthmark on McCray’s wrist. That person went through Patel’s pockets to remove money.
The audio on that system was also a key piece of evidence. The person who gave the two men a ride to the store identified the voices of the two masked men as Allen and McCray.
The Summerville News reported Patel, who was 46 years old, was hospitalized for 50 days before succumbing to his injuries.
At trial both men were convicted of murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault charges, among others, and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Allen appealed his conviction, arguing the court admitted evidence from a prior robbery in 2014 and allowed McCray’s out of court statements to be used against him.
McCray argued the court failed to ensure he understood that he could be present at bench conferences concerning his case. The attorney for McCray also argued the court reporter failed to transcribe questions for prospective jurors.
Justices on Georgia’s high court upheld the convictions and sentences of both men.
“We affirm Allen’s convictions because any errors in admitting evidence of a prior robbery and McCray’s out-of-court statements were harmless, even considered cumulatively,” the order stated. “We also affirm McCray’s convictions because the record shows that McCray elected not to attend bench conferences despite being told that he could, and the trial court was not required to order the court reporter to transcribe voir dire.”