Man pleads guilty in anti-gay Atlanta murder

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A man who lured a gay Atlanta man from Midtown to a hotel room to torture and murder him as a part of a gang initiation pleaded guilty and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Darrius Aderhold (center photo), 25, faced the death penalty for the brutal beating and killing in 2012. But like his co-defendants Jonathan Ray (right) and Christopher Foreman (left), he pleaded guilty to malice murder, theft by taking and street terrorism to avoid a death sentence. On Friday, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson sentenced Aderhold to life in prison plus 25 years. Ray and Foreman pleaded guilty earlier this year and were sentenced to life in prison plus 15 years.

On Jan. 8, 2012, the three men cruised Midtown to find a victim as part of a Bloods gang initiation targeting gay men, according to DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James. The trio met Robert Ross, 46, in Midtown and asked him for a ride to a motel room in Tucker. Once there, the three man tied Ross to a chair and beat him with a chair leg, crushing his skull before they stole his jewelry, clothing and car.

“Mr. Ross’s skull was fractured and his body so disfigured that responding officers had a challenge in identifying his gender and race,” James said in a prepared statement. “This senseless act by all three of these men left a family forever broken. My thoughts and prayers are with his family as they continue to heal from this unimaginable tragedy.”

The men attacked Ross to earn membership into the Bloods and boost their status in the gang, James added.

Ross moved from Chicago to Atlanta in 2011 for “a fresh start,” the family told the AJC.

Tears are a daily reality for Ross’ family. Their mother, 72, hurts the most, say her daughters.

“He was the favorite,” [Cassandra] Riley said, her sister nodding in agreement.

Mother and son talked on the phone daily. In fact, Mary Rogers and her second husband had planned to move Atlanta to retire be close to Robert, or Andre as he was called by his family. He was already looking for a place for them to live.

Rogers was in court when Ray and Foreman were sentenced. There, she heard the details of how her son died, tied to a chair, beaten with a clothes iron. Yolanda Ross said she couldn’t stand to go through that again.

“I left with a picture in my head that I’ll never forget how my son suffered the last hours of his life. I nearly lost my mind,” Rogers said in a victim impact statement read by Yolanda Ross.

On Friday, Aderhold apologized to his family and family members of Ross who were in the courtroom. Via the AJC:

“I want to apologize for victim’s family for a situation that shouldn’t have taken place,” Aderhold said during sentencing. “I’m not asking for their forgiveness because I don’t think they should. I just feel in my heart I should say I’m sorry.”

Yolanda Ross, Robert’s youngest sister, didn’t believe Aderhold was sincere when he apologized.

“I don’t believe he really meant the apology. You never saw one tear fall,” Ross said, according to a press release from James. “After the first hearing, after listening to them describe how my brother was killed, my mother just couldn’t stand to go through it. We are all glad this this is over.”

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