Murder charges were dropped against two men arrested last month in the killing of a strip club co-owner just east of Decatur, an attorney for one of the men said.
Joey Celestin and Bill Nichols were arrested after the Sept. 7 killing of Terry Stephenson, co-owner of Pin Up’s, a strip club on East Ponce de Leon Avenue. Stephenson was shot in the club parking lot carrying cash from Labor Day weekend on his way to the bank at about 1 p.m. The cash was stolen and the shooters fled.
Celestin and Nichols were to attend a bond hearing late last month, but Celestin’s lawyer Mike Jacobs said he introduced new evidence that led to their Sept. 30 release. Jacobs said he found a new witness who heard the gunshots from inside the club and looked at his computer and his BlackBerry, which showed the time was exactly 1 p.m.
Celestin and Nichols were seen eating lunch in the club and left the building shortly before Stephenson was shot. A dancer at the club pinned the killing on them, but Jacobs said he showed law enforcement officials that both of them had clocked in for work at Atlanta Kitchen in Decatur at 1 p.m. – the same time as the shooting.
“It all matched up,” Jacobs said.
The initial call to police identified a black Cadillac sedan pulling out of the club parking lot after the shooting. But Celestin and Nichols were riding in a blue Dodge Charger, Jacobs said. His new witness, however, also saw a black Cadillac sedan pulling out from behind the club right after the shots were fired, he said.
It was an atypical day when Stephenson was attacked because the banks had been closed Monday due to the holiday, so when Stephenson left the club, he was carrying an extra day’s cash. Clubs often use off-duty police officers to escort club workers when they’re making bank deposits. Businesses that deal in large amounts of cash can become targets for criminals.
Stephenson was married and had three children. He and his deceased father, Bill, were well-known in the county’s club industry over the last several decades. Bill Stephenson sold his interest in Clarkston’s Stroker’s nightclub several years ago. He died about a year and a half ago.