A former University of Georgia football player testified Wednesday that he knew on the day a Racetrac station clerk was shot to death in 2021 that a former teammate, Akhil Nasir Crumpton, allegedly committed the crime.
Juwan Taylor, who played linebacker for the Bulldogs from 2015 to 2018, testified in U.S. District Court in Athens that he kept the confession a secret for more than year, even when he was confronted by law enforcement about the crime.
Taylor, the father of two children, works as a player development assistant in the UGA athletic department, where he also assists with coaching linebackers.
The slaying occurred March 19, 2021, when night shift clerk Elijah Wood, 23, was fatally shot behind the checkout counter by a man wearing a mask and all-black attire.
For a year, the crime went unsolved. Then the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office on March 17, 2022, identified Crumpton, 24, of Philadelphia, as the murder suspect.
Crumpton, who played two years as a wide receiver for the Bulldogs, is on trial in federal court on charges of interference with commerce by attempted robbery and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. He was initially charged with murder in a federal indictment, but that charge was dismissed after the court ruled that in the federal system attempted robbery is no longer considered an act of violence and cannot be used with the murder charge under federal guidelines.
If convicted in the current trial, he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. Crumpton still faces a murder indictment in Oconee County on state charges that have yet to be tried.
Crumpton was arrested in Philadelphia on March 16, 2021, where police there said he shot and killed a man who appeared to be robbing him.
On the day of Crumpton’s arrest, U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Brian Moore and Oconee sheriff’s Capt. Vic Green met with Taylor, who at the time was participating in Pro Day activities for football players on the UGA campus. They knew that Taylor and Crumpton had once lived in the same apartment. They were in a car together on the night of July 2, 2021, when they were stopped by deputies as part of an investigation into a burglary, for which they were not involved, according to court testimony.
After meeting with Taylor at the event, the officers took Taylor off campus to a nearby parking lot for a private discussion.
“We know you were not involved (in the slaying),” Green can be heard saying in the recorded conversation played in court. “But we need to know what was going on with Crumpton.”
Taylor said he told them nothing.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what to do,” he testified.
During the long conversation that extended past 24 minutes, they asked Taylor what the suspect had told him about the Racetrac shooting.
Again, Taylor told them nothing, but the two seasoned lawmen could apparently tell that Taylor was holding back.
“I can see your heart beating out of your chest,” Moore tells him. “It’s like you’re getting ready to go play football.”
After the lawmen departed, Taylor testified he called Bryant Gantt, director of player support for UGA football. Later he hired Athens attorney Edward Tolley, a veteran of criminal law. After the two discussed the matter, Taylor agreed to meet with law enforcement and tell them what he knew about that day.
Taylor said Crumpton, whom he knew owned a Glock 40 pistol purchased from a local tattoo artist, woke him early on March 19, 2021, by asking him to “buzz him” through at the entrance gate to Athens Ridge Apartments in Oconee County. They lived in separate bedrooms with two other roommates in the same apartment.
A couple of minutes later, Taylor testified he heard a noise outside his bedroom door. It was Crumpton and Taylor said his friend ” was distraught.”
“I’ve never seen him like that before. He was in pain,” Taylor testified.
Crumpton, in his despair, said, “I needed the money,” and added, “I shot him,” according to Taylor.
At the time, he said Crumpton was wearing a white shirt, black pants and black shoes.
Law enforcement reported the crime at the Racetrac occurred at about 1:30 a.m. The gas station is located on U.S. Highway 441, often called Macon Highway. Athens Ridge Apartments is located about 2 miles away. The apartment residents are predominately students.
Crumpton, when he returned to his apartment, was still holding the Glock pistol, Taylor said.
“I was trying to get him to calm down,” he testified.
As they talked, Taylor said Crumpton never said who he shot or where.
After Crumpton left, Taylor testified he sat on his bed unable to sleep. Then he went to work early that morning.
Later that day, Crumpton showed him a news story on his cellphone about the slaying, according to Taylor.
Again Crumpton admitted, “I didn’t mean to. I just needed the money,” Taylor testified.
“I was afraid to tell anyone,” said the former linebacker, who played all 14 games as a senior.
After the day of the crime, Taylor testified he and Crumpton remained friends and even engaged in a mutual business, but they never again discussed what happened at the Racetrac.
During Taylor’s testimony, Wood’s father could be seen leaving his seat in the courtroom and exiting. He did not return.
The trial resumes Thursday with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Morrison and Daniel Peach presenting more evidence they contend will link Crumpton to the firearm used in the attempted robbery. Oconee County sheriff’s Sgt. Justin Cash testified the gun was recovered in a bedroom Crumpton used at his grandparents’ home in Philadelphia.
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Former Georgia football LB makes shocking confession in federal court
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