A newlywed bride who was gunned down in a parking lot Oct. 22 was allegedly killed in a drug deal gone wrong — and was not the victim of random gun violence, as authorities originally thought. Now her husband, who was also struck in the shootout, has been charged with her murder.
Alisha Stephens had paid a visit to a Popeyes in Lithonia, Ga., for a meal with her husband, Michael Dale LaVigne, when the incident took place in the parking lot at about 9:15 p.m. At the time, “a teenager with a gun” was accused of shooting at the couple’s Ford truck, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know?” Stephens’s family member, Teresa Dean, told Atlanta news station WSB-TV.
LaVigne had also been shot seven times, and the pair were both checked in to the Intensive Care Unit at Grady Memorial Hospital. “He’s got seven gunshot wounds, and he has one … so close to his temple,” Dean had told the station. Stephens, a mother of three, later died from her injuries, but LaVigne survived.
A third person had also been admitted to the hospital with gunshot wounds, according to Atlanta news station WXIA-TV. Carlos Rodriguez, 19, was arrested about four days later and charged with Stephens’s murder along with “an unrelated computer pornography charge,” according to the Journal-Constitution.
After investigating the incident, however, police no longer believe it was a random act of violence. The couple had actually not gone to Popeyes for a late-night snack, it turns out — instead, DeKalb county investigators said they were in the parking lot buying methamphetamine when they were robbed at gunpoint, according to a new report in the Journal-Constitution. Investigators have now charged LaVigne with murder in connection with his new wife’s death. Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to the DeKalb County Police Department for more information on Lavigne’s connection to the crime and will update this post when they reply.
Police have also charged two other men with murder: Rodriguez, who was still in custody, and Juan Carlos Ortiz, who allegedly orchestrated the drug deal while incarcerated. In fact, among the list of charges against the pair are malice murder, felony murder, violation of street gang and terrorism prevention laws, armed robbery and aggravated assault, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Dean, in the meantime, set up a GoFundMe to help field the costs of Stephens’s funeral, which was held on Nov. 1. She was able to raise $8,328 and thanked donors for their prayers and support. “There are no words to express how thankful and grateful I am for each and everyone of you,” she wrote. She called arranging the funeral “the hardest thing I’ve ever done” because Stephens was “so very young” — 35 at the time of her death.
Dean also said her “heart just hurts” for Stephens’s three children, who are mourning the loss of their mom.
Other family members told Atlanta news station CBS 46 that Stephens had lost her parents early in life, then battled addiction. She had been turning her life around after being released from prison and had married LaVigne just two weeks before the attack.
Georgia Department of Corrections records show this is not LaVigne’s first brush with the law. In fact, he had served time in prison twice, according to the Journal-Constitution, most recently for trafficking methamphetamine. It was his second drug conviction, and he was released in February 2018.
When reached by Yahoo Lifestyle, Dean declined to comment.
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