The month-long trial of Detroiters George (G.G.) Rider, Marcie Griffin and Eric Gibson for the 2017 murder of Julii Johnson ended late last week with guilty verdicts across the board in Macomb County Circuit Court bringing the curtain down on a compelling saga of a lover scorned, two convicted Motor City drug dealers on opposite sides of a domestic quarrel, a DNA testing mishap and what appeared to be a string of conflicting agendas. All three will be sentenced to life in prison next month.
While the feds have been itching to stick G.G. Rider behind bars for the rest of his life for decades, it was state authorities – most likely with prodding from the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Office – that finally accomplished that goal.
The 60-year old Rider is a shadowy figure and local eastside street legend, who had successfully reinvented himself into a legitimate businessman and real estate entrepreneur until his arrest two and half years ago. Rider was found guilty as acting the middleman for Griffin in hiring Gibson to kill Johnson, who was dating Griffin’s ex-boyfriend and father to her children, Jimmy Lattner, like Rider, a formidable presence on the streets of Detroit for a number of years.
Johnson, 34, was slain on the morning of January 13, 2017, gunned down as she exited Lattner’s residence in Warren, Michigan. She and Lattner were in a beef with Griffin. Lattner had left Griffin for Johnson in 2015.
Gibson’s DNA was found on the murder weapon. In the Michigan State Police crime labs initial testing of the murder weapon, Lattner’s DNA was found alongside Gibson’s. The lab was also testing a gun discovered in a secret compartment of Lattner’s truck and Macomb County prosecutors and the lab techs responsible for the testing claimed the samples were accidentally switched. A retest resulted in just Gibson’s DNA being traced to the weapon and no traces of Lattner’s DNA there anymore.
At one point, Lattner was considered the prime suspect in the investigation – he faces a stiff prison term for being a felon in possession of a gun unearthed along with a half-million bucks in cash in a police search of the property in the aftermath of Johnson’s slaying. After a few weeks though, the probe turned to Griffin and Rider, connected by prosecutors through a series of texts between Griffin and a phone registered to a company Rider and Gibson had ties to and cell phone “pings” placing them in the same area in the days and hours surrounding Johnson’s homicide.
The case against Griffin and Rider was purely circumstantial and included no physical evidence.
It didn’t matter. They convicted them anyway.
A cryptic text wishing Griffin a good morning on the day of Johnson’s murder was a key piece of evidence presented to the jury. Moments later, Griffin received a text reading, “I hope you understand,” and she responded “I understand everything about it.”
Rider served eight years in federal prison in the 1990s for a narcotics trafficking conviction. Lattner, 44, has two drug dealing convictions on his rap sheet from when he was the leader of the World Domination Gang in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He did six years in prison and got out in 2010.
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