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Murder charges dropped against woman accused in beating
ashley nicole richardson
Ashley Richardson

The state has dropped murder charges against a 25-year-old woman charged in the beating death of a Gainesville man.

Ashley Richardson of Gainesville pleaded guilty on Monday to aggravated assault and robbery as part of a negotiated plea deal in Hall County Superior Court.

Richardson and co-defendant Jessie Joe LuJan, 35, were charged more than a year ago in the June 9, 2012, death of 25-year-old Devin Anthony Thomas.

She was sentenced by Judge Bonnie Oliver to serve 15 years in prison and five years’ probation on the charge of robbery, downgraded from armed robbery. On the aggravated assault charge, she was sentenced to 20 years’ probation to run consecutively to the other sentence.

Gainesville police said Thomas, a day laborer from South Carolina, was found behind a building in the 1000 block of Athens Street around 6:45 a.m. He later died at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

The indictment alleged that between June 8 and 9, Richardson and LuJan beat Thomas in the head with a piece of concrete block in an effort to steal cash and marijuana from him.

Richardson pleaded not guilty to the charges of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault in October 2012. Richardson has been held at the Hall County Jail since her arrest.

LuJan, who was reportedly homeless at the time of the incident, has not been taken into custody since being charged. Court records show he is a native of Mexico.

Gainesville police said in September that they were still “actively searching” for LuJan.

LuJan has a record of prior arrests for shoplifting in Hall; records show his last arrest for the crime was six days before Thomas’ death.

As part of her sentence, Richardson was also ordered to pay a $2,550 fine and $700 in attorney’s fees to the county and undergo a substance abuse evaluation.

If LuJan were brought to trial in Hall County, Richardson could be obligated to testify as a condition of her plea.