Five sentenced in 2018 murder of Daniel Perez in Kennesaw

photo of Cobb Superior Court building from the front with a blue sky with clouds in the backgroundCobb County Superior Court (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Sentences were handed down in the 2018 murder of Daniel Perez, who was killed in the parking lot of a business complex across from North Cobb High School in Kennesaw.

Gustavo Hernandez-Ortiz, 18, had been found guilty in a trial on August 27. His co-conspirators Brittani Hernandez, 21, Charlton Kariuki, 24, Maria Mungai, 22, and Devin Thomas, 25, had all entered guilty pleas before coming to trial.

Hernandez-Ortiz had been convicted of murder, aggravated assault, criminal intent to commit a felony, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.

A public information release from the office of Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady described the murder as follows:

On March 23, 2018, Gustavo Hernandez and his co-Defendants planned a robbery of Daniel Perez. The location of the robbery turned murder was a parking lot in a business complex across the street from North Cobb High School. Surveillance video of the crime scene on the night of the shooting showed Devin Thomas approach Perez’s truck while Hernandez-Ortiz hid behind a nearby vehicle with a handgun. Devin Thomas set up the robbery and had agreed to meet the victim to buy some marijuana. After Devin Thomas spoke to Daniel Perez for a few seconds, Gustavo Hernandez-Ortiz ran up to the car, racked the handgun, and shot Daniel Perez in the back of the head. Thomas and Hernandez-Ortiz fled the to the getaway car where Brittani Hernandez, Charlton Kariuki, and Maria Mungai were waiting to pick them up. Kariuki, Mungai, and Brittani Hernandez testified at trial that the murder was not part of the plan, and that Gustavo Hernandez-Ortiz stated “I shot him, I shot him” when he returned to the vehicle. The evidence at trial showed that Charlton Kariuki secured the gun and ammunition used in the murder.

Senior Assistant District Attorney David Williamson, led the prosecution, supported by ADA Donna Merrell.

“This is a tragedy all around,” ADA Williamson said. “Daniel Perez was a hard-working father of three young children who was killed for absolutely no reason. We have countless friends and family of both the victim and the co-defendants whose lives are forever changed — all because of bad choices made by some really young people. The jury in this case rendered a verdict that sent a message that this type of senseless criminal behavior will not be tolerated in Cobb County.”

ADA Merrell said, “it’s a total loss of potential, and it’s justice without satisfaction.”

The sentences for Hernandez-Ortiz, Mungai, and Hernandez took place on September 4, 2021.

Superior Court Judge C. LaTain Kell, Sr. sentenced Gustavo Hernandez to life in prison plus 15 years.

Thomas was sentenced to life in prison, Kariuki to 40 years to serve 17 years, Brittani Hernandez was sentenced to 20 years to serve 6 years, and Maria Mungai was sentenced to 20 years to serve 2 years.

Tobias Perez, the father of Daniel Perez, addressed Gustavo Hernandez-Ortiz at the sentencing.

“I just ask that you reflect and straighten out your life,” Perez said. “You damaged it at a very young age. I hope that God will forgive you, on my part I have forgiven you, I just hope that you become a good man for society.”

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