Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney

Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sherry Boston, District Attorney


March 11, 2020

Trio Headed to Church Struck by Intoxicated Driver Who Attempted to Flee

Decatur, Ga.- DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announces a conviction by jury trial in connection with a fatal crash that claimed the lives of three people headed to church. Jurors returned guilty verdicts against Marvin Lynch, 32, Friday on charges of Vehicular Homicide in the First Degree (six counts), Hit and Run (two counts), and Driving Under the Influence for the deaths of Vernon Hatley, 67 of Raleigh, North Carolina, his wife Willie Mae Hatley, 65, and their friend, Cora Rhodes Lyles, 65, of Stone Mountain.

The fatal incident happened on the morning of July 5, 2015. Evidence showed that Lynch spent the Independence Day weekend “drinking and partying all night,” by Lynch’s own admission, and that he was intoxicated when he ran a red light at the intersection of Marbut Road and Lithonia Industrial Boulevard in Lithonia. Lynch was traveling in excess of the posted 45 mile per hour speed limit when he struck the vehicle carrying Vernon and Willie Mae Hatley and their friend Cora Lyles.  The impact of the crash propelled the victims’ vehicle more than 90 feet into a nearby wooded area, ejecting one passenger. All three victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The Hatleys were in town for the holiday weekend visiting the Lyles family. The three were en route to early Sunday service at Saint Philip AME church, where Mrs. Lyles and her husband were members, when they were struck and killed.

Defendant Lynch, meantime, survived the crash. After slamming into a utility pole, he attempted to flee the scene in the vehicle of a passerby who pulled over to help. When he was prevented from escaping, Lynch attempted to flee on foot, but was quickly apprehended by police. Analysis of his blood revealed a blood alcohol content greater than the legal limit nearly six hours after the collision. 

Following his conviction, Defendant Lynch was sentenced to 50 years in prison by DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Shondeana Morris, who presided over the trial.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ashley O’Neal with assistance from Senior ADA Heather Waters, DA Investigator Alex Malone, and Victim Advocate Lexi Markova. Detective S. Paulin of the DeKalb County Police Department Traffic Specialist Unit led the initial investigation.