COBB COUNTY, Ga. - Family members of a slain Marine cringed as they heard details of the night he was killed.
The revelations came out when the men in the killing made their first court appearance Friday afternoon.
Zach Gamble, 34, died in April, weeks after he was attacked during a party at a Smyrna apartment complex. He was left for dead in the complex’s parking lot when a taxi driver struck him the morning after the beating.
Tarell Secrest, Arthur Batchelor, Jason Hill and Sean Hall were charged in Gamble’s death. In court, lawyers revealed an explicit text message from the victim to one of the suspects that touched off a deadly chain of events.
Secrest said he'd invited Gamble, an old friend, to his alcohol- and cocaine-fueled birthday party. Batchelor, Hill and Hall were there and told investigators Gamble had been kicked out for making graphic comments about he witnessed in Iraq and other lewd statements.
Then, the explosive text message led to a parking lot skirmish.
“Zach Gamble made an effort to strike or punch or push and actually hit Arthur Batchelor. And when Arthur Batchelor was hit, everyone panicked and went nuts and assaulted with kicks and hit on Mr. Gamble,” Cobb County Police Detective John Dawes said.
Police found Gamble when the taxi driver who ran over him called 911 around 6 a.m.
Defense lawyers suggested the death could be drug-related, accidental, or caused by the taxi, but Dawes said an autopsy showed Gamble died from a skull fractured three times.