Homeless man found guilty of robbery
by Wes Mayer
William Therrell Otero, 31, the homeless man accused of robbing a massage center with a knife in April 2013, was found guilty on all charges Monday afternoon.
“The sheriff’s office did a great job investigating the case,” said the lead prosecutor of the case, Coweta County Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry. “We’re grateful the jury gave careful consideration to the evidence and were able to see justice served.”
Otero was charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and misdemeanor possession of marijuana following the investigation of a robbery that occurred in April 2013. According to McMurry, on April 27, authorities believe Otero entered the Asian Therapeutic Massage in the White Oak shopping center off Highway 34 East. There, he grabbed an employee by her hair, put a knife to her throat, slammed her head against a desk and demanded money from the store, according to authorities. Another employee then led Otero to the back of the store to the safe – Otero dragged the first employee with him – and Otero left the business out the back door with $756 in stolen cash.
Otero was defended by Public Defender Jerry Pittman, and Superior Court Judge Dennis Blackmon presided over the trial. A jury was selected on Aug. 11 and the trial began the next day. According to McMurry, the state called 10 witnesses including the lead investigator, Lt. John Kennedy – who was a sergeant during the investigation – and the two Korean employees who both needed translators when they were called to the stand.
McMurry said the key evidence was a cigarette butt that was recovered from SonRise Baptist Church’s pool house, which is located behind the massage center, video surveillance from Los Gordos – a Cuban restaurant that was next door – of Otero drinking a beer in the restaurant, and the recovered beer bottle that Otero ordered that day. The cigarette butt and beer bottle were both DNA matched to Otero. Using this evidence, Kennedy was able to determine Otero was in the area during the time the crime took place.
About 28 hours after the robbery, Kennedy was able to track Otero to a Motel 6 and took Otero into custody in his hotel room. Otero was found wearing clothing matching the victim’s description and he also had a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. The knife used in the robbery was never located, but when Kennedy returned to the victims with a photo of Otero, the second employee – the one who was not assaulted – was able to positively identify him.
For the defense’s evidence, Otero testified in his own defense and Pittman called one other witness. During his testimony, however, Otero gave an alibi that he only announced for the first time in the investigation. He said during the time of the robbery, he was watching a movie at the Carmike 10 movie theater on the opposite side of Shenandoah Boulevard.
This caused a delay in the trial to determine whether Otero’s alibi could actually be admissible in court, considering the prosecution had no prior knowledge of it, and it was decided Otero’s alibi would be allowed, McMurry said.
On Monday, attorneys gave their closing arguments and, around 2 p.m., the jury found Otero guilty on all charges. According to McMurry, Otero is now in custody, and his sentencing was deferred to Aug. 29.