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Crime News The Real Murders Of Atlanta

Police Crime Ring Tied to Strip Club Owner's Murder: "It Had the Makings of a Movie"

Atlanta investigators searching for the killer of a local businessman turn up a shocking crime network of police officers and civilians.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Shortly after midnight on February 10, 1993, police responded to reports of shots being fired at a residence in Clayton County, Georgia.

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In the garage officers found Henry “Lamar” Jeffcoat, 50, owner of the Gold Rush strip club. He was slumped over in the driver’s seat with a Glock pistol in his hand.

“He had numerous gunshot wounds in his back and torso area. He was not responsive,” Garland Watkins, a former deputy with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, told The Real Murders of Atlanta, airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.

Officers confirmed that Jeffcoat was the only victim in the house. “There were multiple shell casings inside of the vehicle and outside of the vehicle, which indicated more than one shooter,” said Watkins.

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Lamar Jeffcoat crime scene shows a bloody shootout

Shell casings inside the car matched Jeffcoat’s 9mm Glock but casings outside the car were from another handgun. It appeared that Jeffcoat and his killer had engaged in a shootout. A significant amount of blood was on the garage floor.

“We were able to tell that the blood pooled outside of the car was not Lamar Jeffcoat’s,” said Robbie Frederick, a retired detective with the Clayton County Police Department.

Police believed that there were at least two killers, and that one of them had been seriously injured. Officers followed the blood trail into a wooded area near the residence.

“We lost the trail but in the distance we heard a car start and the screech of tires,” said Watkins.

Investigators Ask Public for Help in Lamar Jeffcoat's Case

Officers canvased the victim's neighbors, two of whom reported hearing gunshots and noise in the woods. One observed two people run from the woods and get into a car that sped away.

Police had no information on the make of the car. They focused on the injured alleged assailant by checking local hospitals and morgues, according to Jackie Barrett-Washington, former sheriff for Fulton County, Georgia. That avenue led to no useful clues.

Investigators looked to Jeffcoat’s wife and family for possible leads. They learned that he had been in the seafood distribution business before joining the adult entertainment industry.

When he bought the Gold Rush it was already an established business. Between his innovative ideas and flair for dealing with staff and customers, Jeffcoat “found the recipe for a successful club,” said club owner Mike Kap.

Investigators learned that Jeffcoat left the club before midnight. When he arrived home, he was on the phone with his wife, who was away babysitting.

“We learned that about a year prior to the homicide he'd been victimized twice before,” said Mark McGann, a former detective with the Clayton County Police Department. Jeffcoat had faced down armed robberies at the club and his home, where he was forced to open a safe.

“Lamar believed he was a target and had become paranoid,” said Frederick, adding that the club owner began carrying the pistol. “When he turned onto his street he actually pulled the gun out and held it in his lap."

Finding the motive for Lamar Jeffcoat's slaying

Investigators believed there could be a connection between the homicide and the prior robberies. When Jeffcoat reported the home robbery, he had no description of the assailants and Gold Rush staff were unable to provide useful leads.

Detectives considered the possible motives behind the murder. Jeffcoat was in competition with other local clubs.

Police interviewed rival club owners running cash-driven businesses like the Gold Rush. They learned that there had been burglaries in the early morning hours at some of these clubs.

Donnie Kirkland Was Like Son to Lamar Jeffcoat

Businessmen were "all kind of paranoid and pretty much on high alert for our own particular bars and establishments,” said Kap.

Police were unable to connect any of these other robberies to Jeffcoat’s murder. But they considered that a ring of criminals targeted these clubs.

Detectives learned that to safeguard their businesses and customers, club owners began hiring from the same source — law enforcement doing security as a side hustle. But even with off-duty cops working security, club robberies had increased over the past two years.

Police officers become suspects in the homicide

To drum up leads, police put out a media blast that ended up cracking the case wide open. A gym employee reported that she overheard two Riverdale PD officers — Mark McKenna, 27, and James Batsel, 30 — talking about robbing Lamar Jeffcoat.

Investigators proceeded carefully as they worked to corroborate the lead. They were unsure if the men were talking to someone else who was involved.

Unlike Batsel, McKenna had not been at work since Jeffcoat’s murder, detectives learned. Investigators reached out to McKenna, who agreed to meet with them.

Investigators immediately observed that he had a bullet wound in his cheek. McKenna admitted to his part in the robbery and murder of Lamar Jeffcoat and that he’d been shot during the ambush.  

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McKenna revealed who was involved — Batsel, Gold Rush bouncer Christopher Grantham, 34, and Fulton County Sheriff’s Department deputy William Moclaire, 30, who worked off-hours at the club.

The conspirators had coordinated a series of alerts. Moclaire paged McKenna to inform that Jeffcoat was on his way home. McKenna and Batsel then hid in the victim’s garage.

McKenna was unaware that Jeffcoat had a gun and was shot. Batsel returned fire, shooting Jeffcoat. Grantham drove the getaway car. Batsel, a former military medic, treated McKenna’s wound at Grantham’s apartment, according to The Real Murders of Atlanta.

Crime ring of police and civilians emerges

Then McKenna dropped another bombshell. The criminal network was bigger than just the four men. “They were in fact part of a group of law enforcement in the Atlanta area who were tied into several crimes in the area,” said Frederick.

Investigators identified officers from Riverdale PD, Clayton County PD, Atlanta PD, Fulton County Sheriff's Department, as well as civilians. “They were responsible for 18 robberies,” said Barrett-Washington.

McKenna, Batsel, Moclaire, and Grantham were arrested for the Jeffcoat’s murder. “It had the makings of a movie,” said Kap. “The police had turned bad.”

McKenna worked with prosecutors in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table. He shared how the criminal ring operated and that stolen safes had been dumped in a local lake.

Prosecutors built their case for this massive criminal conspiracy. “There were no trials because everybody we arrested agreed to cooperate and took a plea,” said McGann.

Nine men, including five police officers, were convicted for their roles in the robbery ring. Police officers were banned from working at strip clubs, according to Barrett-Washington.

McKenna, Batsel, and Grantham pleaded guilty to Jeffcoat’s murder and were sentenced to life in prison. Moclaire received 25 years for sending the page that led to Jeffcoat’s death.

To learn more about the case, watch The Real Murders of Atlanta, airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.