Two men were sentenced to life in prison for luring a Florida grandfather to his death with a bogus advertisement on Craigslist. The two shot and killed the 56-year-old man during an attempted armed robbery at an abandoned home in DeKalb County. Contevious Stepp-McCommons and Malik Rice were found guilty of killing 56-year-old Clarence Gardenhire, of Tallahassee, FL, who was in town for the birth of his ninth grandchild in 2013, according to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
Stepp-McCommons, 20, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 35 years, spokesman Erik Burton said. Rice, 19, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 55 years, Burton said. The two were convicted of felony murder, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, criminal attempt to commit a felony and two counts of aggravated assault, Burton said.
Prosecutors said the pair placed a fake ad featuring an iPhone for sale in order to lure Gardenhire and his son in 2013. Stepp-McCommons and Rice met Gardenhire and his son, Jamar Perry, at an abandoned house in southeast Atlanta, spokesman Erik Burton said. During the attempted robbery, Gardenhire, of Tallahassee, Fl., was shot and later died at a local hospital, Burton said.
“This was a calculated plot to lure innocent victims to a designated, unsafe area with a goal to rob them upon arrival,” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said. “However, in the course of their interaction, Stepp-McCommons fatally shot Mr. Gardenhire and fled the scene.”
During the sentence hearing, Gardenhire’s widow, Joan Gardenhire, was in tears when she spoke of losing her husband, Burton said. “My best friend and life partner was stolen from me without any warning,” she said. “I know that this sentence will not bring my husband back. My heart hurts.”
With the recent murders of a Cobb County couple and a CAU student due to a fake Craigslist ad and recent robberies related to the online site, James is warning residents to be careful.
“There have been a number of Craigslist incidents throughout the greater Atlanta area that have resulted in deaths,” James said. “I want to strongly caution those utilizing Craigslist and any online site where communication with total strangers to be mindful of the potential dangers when dealing with various online platforms.”
Officials offered these Craigslist safety tips:
• Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe.
• Do not meet in a secluded place, or invite strangers into your home.
• Be especially careful when buying/selling high value items.
• Tell a friend or family member where you’re going.
• Take your cell phone along if you have one.
• Consider having a friend accompany you.