A man who dressed as a woman to rob an Aiken jewelry store last year pleaded guilty on Monday to three counts of attempted murder.
Dominique Lemond Fortenberry also pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted armed robbery and discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle.
He was sentenced to 30, 20 and 10 years, respectively, for each charge. Judge Doyet “Jack” Early told Fortenberry he was facing up to 120 years but instead allowed the sentences to run concurrently.
The charges stemmed from two separate incidents, the first of which was a drive-by shooting in August 2011 near the Sunoco gas station on York Street in Aiken. The second was the attempted robbery of Porky Bradberry’s Jewelry Store off Whiskey Road on Sept. 12.
Early told Fortenberry that he would reconsider the sentence if Fortenberry cooperated during the trial of his accomplice, Christi Jackson, who will be tried at a later date.
According to Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond Jr., Fortenberry met Jackson after he moved to Charleston and took a job at the department store where she worked. The two “struck up a relationship” and moved to Aiken, he said.
Thurmond said that in both instances, Fortenberry and Jackson acted in concert, “almost in a Bonnie and Clyde type of relationship.”
In the first incident on Aug. 17, 2011, Fortenberry began a conversation with Andrea Rouse while the two pumped gas at the Sunoco around 1:30 a.m. Jackson was inside her SUV while Fortenberry pumped gas, he said.
“When Ms. Jackson noticed that Mr. Fortenberry and Ms. Andrea Rouse were talking, Mr. Fortenberry began to yell at Ms. Andrea Rouse and asked her why she was talking to a married man,” Thurmond said, adding that Fortenberry was not married.
Jackson got out of the SUV and confronted Rouse, who saw that Fortenberry had a black semi-automatic pistol in his waist band, Thurmond said. Rouse and the occupants in her vehicle, including a 10-month-old child, realized after leaving the gas station that they were being followed by Jackson’s SUV, which Jackson was driving.
Thurmond said that, at a stop on Beaufort Road, Jackson pulled up next to Rouse’s car, and Fortenberry fired a shot into the car. No one was injured.
In the second incident, which happened on Sept. 12, at Bradberry’s jewelry store, Fortenberry entered the store wearing a sundress and a wig. Thurmond said Fortenberry presented a piece of jewelry to sell to “create a distraction to get the drawer open.”
When Bradberry’s son went to the back of the store to get cash to complete the transaction, Fortenberry pulled a gun from the purse and demanded money, Thurmond said. When Fortenberry pointed the gun at Bradberry’s son and told him to lay on the ground, Bradberry pulled a pistol from his hip and shot Fortenberry once in the face.
Fortenberry fired back at Bradberry, with one bullet striking him in the arm. He then fled the scene with Jackson, who was waiting in a car behind the store.
The two were later arrested at a hospital in Augusta, where Jackson told investigators that Fortenberry was shot during an altercation at an Augusta park.
“Ms. Jackson would give several other statements that are also not true,” Thurmond said.
There were plenty of tears in the courtroom on Monday, including from Fortenberry’s mother, who called her son her “backbone” and said Jackson had a negative influence on him.
“The more she stayed around, the more Dominique started behaving funny. He met her, and his life totally went down the drain,” she said. “I’m not here to say my son is completely innocent, but he’s not raised like this. He’s never done anything like this before in his life.”
Jackson was first charged in connection with the jewelry store robbery and was released on $30,000 bond. She was arrested again in October once she and Fortenberry were linked to the August shooting.
Jackson’s bond was reduced at a hearing in April from $3,750,000 to $75,000, which she eventually posted. Several people, including Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price and former City Councilwoman Beverly Clyburn, defended Jackson at the bond hearing.
Teddy Kulmala covers the SRS and Courts beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.