Two Men Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Murder of Lithonia Store Owner

Two Men Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Murder of Lithonia Store Owner

DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston has announced the successful conviction of Ronnie Miller, aged 46, and Ricky Character, aged 24, following a jury trial for their roles in the tragic murder of Tesfaye Birru, a 57-year-old convenience store owner in Lithonia.

On July 1, 2024, a jury found Miller and Character guilty on multiple charges, including Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Armed Robbery, and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony. Additionally, Miller faced further convictions for Felony Murder and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.

On July 9, 2024, in the DeKalb County Superior Court, Judge Gregory A. Adams sentenced Ronnie Miller to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 45 years, and Ricky Character to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 35 years.

The fatal incident occurred on February 19, 2020, when officers from the DeKalb County Police Department responded to reports of a shooting at a convenience store located in the 2700 block of Evans Mill Road, Lithonia. Upon arrival, they discovered Tesfaye Birru deceased in the parking lot, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Key evidence recovered included Birru’s store keys clutched in his hand, alongside a firearm and holster found near his body.

Surveillance footage from the scene captured the chilling sequence of events: three masked assailants arriving in a vehicle with its lights off, lying in wait for Birru to close up shop. One of the defendants, clad in a distinctive camouflage jacket, blue shoes, and a mask, confronted Birru, leading to a fatal exchange when Birru attempted to defend himself with a firearm. A second assailant emerged and delivered a fatal shot to Birru’s head before all three perpetrators fled the scene in their vehicle.

Through diligent investigative efforts, law enforcement identified Ronnie Miller as a suspect, supported by surveillance footage and corroborating cell phone data that placed him at the scene of the crime. Subsequent search warrants executed on Miller’s vehicle yielded critical physical evidence, including the camouflage jacket, blue shoes, and a ski mask matching those worn by the assailants.

Further investigation into Miller’s communications revealed his connection to Ricky Character, who was also implicated through cell phone data placing him at the scene of the crime and incriminating social media statements. Despite these convictions, a third unidentified assailant involved in the crime remains at large.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorneys Jasmine Atakora and Eleanor Friedman, with support from District Attorney Investigator Christopher Usiak and Supervising Victim Advocate Ikwo Nyong. Former DeKalb County Police Department Detective J.B. Williams, now an investigator with the DA’s Office, played a pivotal role in the initial investigation.

In addition to their involvement in Birru’s murder, Miller and Character are linked to a similar robbery in Rockdale County in January 2020, underscoring the severity and pattern of their criminal activities.

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