Steve Toms Murder: Cellphone records allegedly place suspected k - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Steve Toms Murder: Cellphone records allegedly place suspected killer near crime scene

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

A self-proclaimed rapper is charged with murder; almost two years after police say he took a man's life during a botched robbery.

Friday morning, 29-year-old Michael Johnson pleaded not guilty to several serious charges including murder.

November 15, 2011 police were called to 3717 Gentian Blvd; the body of Gold and Silver Trading Center's Manager Steve Toms was found riddled with bullets.

Authorities went on a massive hunt for the killer.

"There was a concerned citizen who came to headquarters and gave information regarding Tom's murder. He said he was giving the information because he felt like it was important and that what happened to Steve Toms should not have happened," Columbus Police Department Corporal Andrew Tyner said.

The unknown informant reportedly implicated Michael Johnson by his nickname "Big Smooth"

Cpl. Tyner testified the citizen told investigators Johnson was a mastermind behind a robbery ring and was involved with the murder.

"They asked him, how can you have an alibi when you don't know what date we're talking about? He said, well any date that you come up with about murder, I have an alibi," Tyner testified.

Tyner stated Johnson gave police two different alibi's on two separate occasions.  The first alibi: he was at his mother's house in Oakland Park.

Investigators testified Johnson told them he was nowhere near this area the night of the gruesome murder but they say they have cell phone records that prove otherwise

"Phone records indicated that he was in the area of Peachtree Mall during the time that we suspect this murder occurred," said Tyner.

Johnson's attorney Robert Wadkins Jr. said what you hear may not always be as bad as it sounds.

"In a preliminary hearing, hearsay is allowed so we weren't really privy to exactly what went on, what was said. Most importantly, we don't know what the context of it was. So a lot of things can sound bad when they're taken out of context," Watkins states.

Tyner mentioned after Johnson learned about his cellphone records being subpoenaed, he changed his story again.

"He said that if his phone records put him in that area he had to be at the studio which is located on University Avenue," Tyner said.

According to investigators, the studio Johnson said he was at around the time of the murder had no records of him recording rap music that day.

"Mr. Johnson didn't know that I had checked this information and in January of this year Mr. Johnson got a message to me that he needed to talk with me," Tyner testified.

Tyner referred to Johnson as "cocky" during a conversation.

"Mr. Johnson told me that he was going to clear the cases that I was working... He told me he was going to close my books," Cpl. Tyner said.

Johnson implicated his cousin; a man named Daequavian Solomon.  In another conversation Tyner testified Johnson recounted to them how Solomon killed Toms.

"The victim started to run away from him, Solomon ran after him. He said Solomon brought [Toms] back to the register at which time he made Toms give him the money from the register. He said that Solomon told him that he noticed a ring on Mr. Toms finger and he attempted to get that ring and at that time Toms told him, ‘No, don't take the ring let me give you some more cash," Cpl. Tyner testified.

Instead of reaching for cash, Toms reached for a gun, Johnson told investigators.  Detectives said that's when according to Johnson his cousin Solomon shot Tom's multiple times.

Investigators testified Johnson told them the make and model of the murder weapon. The pair reportedly threw the gun into the Chattahoochee River behind Rigdon Park.

Johnson's attorney said Johnson has cooperated with investigators; his cousin Solomon has not.

The gun was never recovered.

Cpl. Tyner stated there's no evidence Solomon has any involvement in this case.

Wadkins questioned Cpl. Tyner about any other evidence linking Johnson to the murder. Tyner testified there were no fingerprints found at the crime scene or any stolen items recovered from Johnson's home. However, Tyner said authorities have Johnson making half a dozen calls from jail allegedly trying to create an alibi.

"His words to these people were, "you need to tell 'this person' that on November 15th "tear drop", which refers to murder, tell him that he picked me up at the studio and transported me back to my momma's house. Say no more, say no less," Tyner testified.

Cpl. Tyner spoke about community theories surrounding the motive behind Toms' death. He said the entire crime was a robbery that went awry.

Johnson is being held in the Muscogee County Jail without bond. The case has been bound over to Superior Court.

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