Two men and one woman, all from Florida, have been charged in connection with an armed robbery at the A & A convenience store in Bainbridge, GA, on Oct. 15, according to the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.
(Related Article: Shots fired during robbery in Decatur County Thursday night)
The three people charged are as follows:
- Ray Charles Simmons, 30, of 268 Liberty Road, Quincy, Fla., who is being held in the Leon County, Fla., Jail. Ray Simmons is charged with criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, aggravated assault (two counts), armed robbery and kidnapping. At the time that the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office took warrants on Ray Simmons, he had already been picked up on outstanding warrants for his arrest on charges of vehicle theft (Gadsden County) and failure to appear in court on a traffic violation (Leon County).
- Michael Jermaine Simmons, 32, of 42 Pine Cone Drive, Quincy, Fla., who is being held at the Gadsden County, Fla., Jail. Michael Simmons is charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and criminal attempt to commit armed robbery.
- Chonda Wynette Lane, 39, of 900 Bates Drive, Tallahassee, Fla., who is being held at the Decatur County, Ga., Jail. Lane, who is Ray Simmons’ girlfriend, is charged with kidnapping and criminal attempt to commit armed robbery.
In the Oct. 15 incident, two men wearing hoodie jackets and covering their faces entered the A & A convenience store off Georgia 97 South a couple miles southwest of Bainbridge. In a new detail we have learned from investigators that was not previously reported, one of the robbers entered the store and began shooting at the store’s owner as the owner emerged from a back room.
The robber jumped over the store’s counter to chase after the store owner, who gathered up his young son and fired back at the robber several times with a .357 pistol. The robber with the gun jumped back over the store’s counter, and as he and the second robber fled the store without getting any money, they kidnapped a man who was also in the store.
The last the store owner saw of the robbers, they were headed south in what was described as a gray Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Marquis, which are different versions of the same car.
The robbers forced the man they had kidnapped out of the car near the old Southlands Forest property off Georgia 97 South, a couple of miles south of the A & A store. The robbers took a large sum of cash from the victim and left him on the side of the road.
Sheriff’s deputies investigation leads south to Florida
Hours after the robbery, Decatur County Sheriff’s Office investigators began shifting their search for the robbery suspects to Gadsden County, Fla., just south of Decatur County across the Georgia-Florida border. As it turns out, a lieutenant with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office was working that Thursday night and after hearing about the robbery in Bainbridge from a fellow officer, the Gadsden County investigator called Robert Humphrey, an investigator with the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.
Humphrey said the Gadsden County deputy described details of an armed robbery at a gas station in his jurisdiction that had happened on Tuesday, Oct. 13, just two nights before. According to Humphrey, there were several similarities between the two robberies. In the Gadsden County robbery, two men had entered the store and one of them fired his gun multiple times and robbed the store of money. The men stole one of the store patron’s cars and later set it on fire down the road.
Additionally, because the suspects’ car was last seen headed south, Decatur County deputies thought there was a good chance the robbers were in Florida, and Humphrey and other investigators traveled to Quincy, Fla., on Friday, Oct. 16. Fellow Decatur County investigators Redell Walton and Brian Donalson also worked hard developing leads in the case, Humphrey said.
“There was also some evidence at the crime scene that we looked into that led us to North Florida,” Humphrey said.
After investigating leads further over the next few days, investigators identified Chondra Lane, who lives in an apartment in Tallahassee, Fla., as a person of interest in the case that they wanted to talk with. Soon after, Decatur County deputies requested the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service in Tallahassee, who are tasked with locating fugitives from justice and executing arrest warrants related to violent crimes.
U.S. Marshals took Chondra Lane into custody at her residence in Tallahassee on Wednesday, Oct. 21. According to Humphrey, there were items located at Lane’s residence that tied her and others to the A & A robbery in Bainbridge.
Further investigation and collection of evidence led Sheriff’s deputies and the U.S. Marshals Service to arrest Michael Simmons at his residence in Quincy on Friday, Oct. 23.
Ray Simmons, who is the boyfriend of Chondra Lane, was found to already be in custody at the Leon County Jail after he was arrested on unrelated warrants for his arrest out of Gadsden and Leon counties in Florida.
The Decatur County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by deputies with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service office in Tallahassee, Fla.