Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney

Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sherry Boston, District Attorney

TWO MEN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR MURDER OF LITHONIA CONVENIENCE STORE OWNER

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

State v. Ronnie Miller and Ricky Character

Decatur, Ga.- DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston announces convictions by jury trial in the case against two men accused in the murder of a convenience store owner in Lithonia.

On July 1, 2024, jurors found both Ronnie Miller, 46, and Ricky Character, 24, guilty on charges of Malice Murder, Felony Murder, Aggravated Assault, Criminal Attempt to Commit Armed Robbery, and Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony stemming from the death of Tesfaye Birru, 57. Ronnie Miller was also convicted on separate counts of Felony Murder and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.

Today, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Adams, who presided over the trial, sentenced Defendant Miller to life without the possibility of parole plus 45 years and Defendant Character to life without the possibility of parole plus 35 years. 

According to the investigation, officers from the DeKalb County Police Department responded to a call of a person shot at a convenience store in the 2700 block of Evans Mill Road in Lithonia around 10 p.m. on February 19, 2020. When they arrived, they located the store’s owner, Tesfaye Birru, deceased in the parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds. The keys to the store were still in his hand, and a gun and a holster were both located near his body.

Police obtained surveillance video from the incident location that showed three masked men with guns. The men drove a vehicle with the lights off into the parking lot and waited for Birru to lock up the store. A defendant wearing a camouflage jacket, blue shoes and a mask ran up to the victim. When Birru attempted to pull his gun, the defendant shot him. Another assailant emerged from around an ice bin and shot Birru in the head. The three men then fled in their car.

After requesting help from the public, police received information that led them to Defendant Miller. Search warrants turned up the camouflage jacket, blue shoes, and a ski mask in Miller’s car, as well as cell phone data that placed him at the scene during the murder.

The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office continued the investigation into the two unknown individuals. During a review of Defendant Miller’s contacts, investigators found a cell phone number belonging to Defendant Character. Character and Miller communicated before and after the murder. Cell phone data also placed Character at the scene of the murder, and he made incriminating statements on social media that implicated him in the murder.

Defendants Miller and Character are also linked to a January 2020 robbery in Rockdale with a similar fact pattern.

The third assailant remains unidentified.

The case, assigned to the Homicide and Gangs Unit, was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jasmine Atakora with assistance from Senior Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Friedman, District Attorney Investigator Christopher Usiak, and Supervising Victim Advocate Ikwo Nyong. Former DeKalb County Police Department Detective J.B. Williams, now an investigator with the DA’s Office, led the initial investigation.