Laurens gang member convicted of killing police informant


LAURENS, SC; April 21, 2023 – A member of the Gangster Disciples in Laurens is headed to prison for more than four decades after being convicted at trial in connection to the 2021 killing of a police informant, 8th Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo announced Monday.

Antone B Ellis Tremayne Blakely, 30, of Laurens, was convicted late Friday evening of murder, third-degree assault and battery by mob, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime following a weeklong trial at the Laurens County Courthouse.

A Laurens County jury returned the guilty verdicts at about 7 p.m. Friday evening after deliberating for about two hours.

Circuit Judge Donald B. Hocker then sentenced Blakely to 40 years in prison on the murder charge, 25 years in prison on the kidnapping charge, 10 years on the conspiracy, five years on the weapon possession charge, and one year on the assault charge. State law requires the weapon possession charge to run consecutively to the sentence on the murder charge. All other sentences are to run concurrently with credit for the time Blakely has already spent in jail.

In January 2021, Blakely whose street name was “Cheeze”l, along with accomplices went to the Spring Street apartments where Jarius Byrd was staying.  Byrd had worked as a confidential informant for the Laurens Police Department over 10 years ago.  Blakely and other co-defendants blocked Byrd in his bedroom and assaulted him. After this assault, Byrd was able to flee the house and a few minutes later returned to get his things. Blakely remained inside the apartment and opened fire on Byrd when he returned. Other accomplices of Blakely who were outside the apartment also shot at the victim as he attempted to flee.  Byrd was hit with multiple bullets and collapsed in the middle of Spring Street.  He was pronounced dead at the emergency room after EMS transport. Publicly accessible Facebook posts from Blakely were key evidence in proving Blakely’s motive for the crime and his associations with other accomplices in the attack.

Solicitor Stumbo and Senior Assistant Solicitor Josh Thomas handled the case for the state, with assistance from 8th Circuit Investigators Jared Hunnicutt and Josh Pittman and 8th Circuit Victim Advocate Joy Lindsay. Blakely was represented by Matthew Ozment of the Greenville County Bar.

Solicitor Stumbo praised the work of his staff, along with LPD detectives Billy Sellers and Ben Gallow as well agents and lab technicians from the State Law Enforcement Division in securing the conviction and lengthy prison sentence.

“When criminals create an atmosphere of fear where no one will cooperate with law enforcement then none of our communities are safe,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “Jarius Byrd was killed for doing the right thing and we are glad that one of is killers will be spending most of his remaining days on earth behind bars.”

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