DJ Fickey Case
DJ Fickey was a devoted father who got involved with the wrong crowd. Tragically lost his life at the hands of one of these people. His death has been ruled a suicide despite evidence pointing towards a homicide. His death needs to be reclassified and his sister Amanda is trying to get as much media attention as possible to make this happen.
Here is the link to our podcast episode on this case: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/25915808
Amanda, DJ’s sister has become a huge advocate for his case. On twitter go check out the hashtag JusticeforDJ. Anyways, she provided police files, recordings, interviews, etc. for me and all the other podcasters who have covered this case to go over. I would like to share part of a timeline she wrote up starting on September 14, 2016 and going to October 3, 2016 which was also the day of DJ’s tragic death.
“9-14-16- Dj sent me “Amanda (his sister)” a voicemail stating his current situation with his wife that she was back with mark and stated he was going to try to find somewhere to go and that i had that information just in case i needed it. I do not know if he ever left there on this date or not.
9-18-16- Dj was sending out several messages on facebook reaching out to friends and family trying to find somewhere to go. He was also going to different friends and family trying to find somewhere to stay. He ended back at old mans when he couldn’t find anywhere to go. I was never aware of this :(
9-24-16- Djs friend Misty Croft and her daughter Savannah came and picked dj up at old man's and took him to get something to eat. During this time Dj told both them that mark had been trying to kill him. Dj told them about mark jumping him when he got out of the shower and putting a knife to his throat, mark jumping him with a ball bat and Dj knocking marks tooth out with a golf club, Misty said he was covered in bruises that would be consistent with a bat or golf club and he told
them about mark giving him a hot shot of drugs that made him act erratically after the shot and then very sick for a few days after. He also told them that if anything ever happened to him to have Mark and Brandy investigated because he would never hurt himself. They rode around awhile and parked in a parking lot and just talked. Afterwards Dj wanted to go back to old mans to be with Brandy.
9-30-16- Brandy and someone else dropped Dj off at a family friends house. They were not home so Dj walked to our aunt Frances Bentley’s home. While he was there he told our aunt about mark jumping him when he got out of the shower and put a knife to his throat and that altercation was over Brandy, and that Mark was trying to kill him. He told her he was worried Mark was going to try and do something stupid and try to take the kids away from his mother Kathy Fickey. Frances also noted Dj told her on this date about another altercation where Dj and Brandy were outside the camper in the swing talking about moving back in with Kathy Fickey “Dj’s” mom and mark must have overheard the conversation because he came out of the camper, put a gun to Brandy's head told her he would have her leaving out of there in a body bag and made her go inside the camper. Dj told Frances that he was scared to do anything about Marks behaviour at the time due to him thinking Mark may shoot Brandy. Our aunt let him get something to eat and then he asked for a ride to the Dodds Ave area. Frances and David Mcbryar witnessed all this information and dropped him off on Dodds Ave. Later that night he was back at old mans with brandy. They got back together that night.
10-1-16- Dj had called our mother Kathy to check on the kids and to talk to them. He spoke to his little boy Jack and Jack told him he wanted a choo choo train for christmas. After talking to him he talked to our mom again and told her not to buy Jack a train for christmas that he wanted to be the one that got it for him. He was happy during that whole conversation and in good spirits.
10-03-16- at around 1:30 central time I got a call from my mom. I said hello a few times and didnt get a response from her all i could hear was her crying and yelling. I assumed she was arguing with her husband. She hung up. I called her back immediately and she was hysterical. I told her i couldn't understand her what was wrong and she shouted out Dj’s dead! I kept saying No, no, no as i ran to the bedroom to wake my husband up and yelled to him, Rick! Djs dead. I went over to the bed and fell to the floor. I was in shock and shaking uncontrollably. I still had my mom on the phone, she said, Amanda you have to take me up there. I
told her “mom you don't need to see that” she said she had to get to her baby. I told my husband he would have to take her up there because there was no way i could drive. On their way to old man's house my mom got a call from who she thought was a detective but was Dewayne Wilson “the coroner” she told him that her son did not kill himself and that she had text messages on her phone where he was texting her and was afraid for his life. Mr. wilson told her they knew it was a self inflicted gunshot wound because they had a witness that seen him shoot himself. But he would send him for a autopsy. Once my mom arrived everyone was leaving the scene. My mom caught detective ellenburg getting into his car and she told him she wanted everyone's hands checked for gun residue. Mr ellenburg told her he had already gotten test from everyone. My mom asked if mark was tested and Mr. Ellenburg asked who mark was. Then realized it was Marshall. Before Mr. Ellenburg left Mark asked if they could start cleaning up the mess and he told them he did not see why not. They burned the love seat my brother was sitting on, the scene was never roped off or treated like a crime scene. They actually let my mom walk into the trailer and see the aftermath of my brothers blood everywhere. Brandy had jumped into our suv wanting to leave with my mom and husband but my husband told her she wasn't going with them because at the time we didn't know exactly what had happened and were upset with brandy. Everyone left.”
That was to give you an overview of the time directly before his death and the day of his death according to family members, more specifically his sister. Now that you have that background knowledge we can jump into an analysis of all the other materials, starting with the three 911 calls. The setting of where these three 911 calls take place is inside Mark’s trailer where it seems Mark, DJ, and Brandy were living at the time. Just prior to the 911 calls it is reported that DJ was texting friends and family asking for rides out of there and places to stay because according to him his life depended on it. DJ had reason to believe he would not survive if he stayed there and that makes everything even more damning in this case. The reason there are three different calls is that the one calling, Mark, also the main suspect in this case, hung up multiple times for an unknown reason. I understand that panic can be present but the one main thing to do in a situation like this is to stay on the line so that you have the best chance of saving the victim's life.
There are a few things to note in the initial call. Mark states “We got a guy that shot himself” which seems to imply he doesn’t really know the guy who shot himself. Those who know the victims normally say so and so shot themselves or my husband, my friend, etc. shot themselves. This could be nothing, once again everyone reacts to traumatic situations differently so don’t doc me if you think that, because I understand. From my experience in looking at other cases and a lot of time in college psychology, this seems like he is trying to detach himself from the situation right from the start. People subconsciously say things that can tell their true feelings or their true intentions.
Mark also states that he was trying to get the gun away from DJ near the front door when it went off. That sets our scene of the crime.
In this second call, Mark stated that the damage done to DJ was in his mouth and confirms that there is an exit wound. From this call I noticed that Mark seems to talk about himself a lot. It is apparent in the first and third calls as well but as I listened to this second call I really noticed it. In addition to that he also takes a long time to answer questions that the operator is asking about DJ. This is a personal opinion but I think in that situation no one should be worried about themselves, if they are not the one that is injured. Their sole focus should be on the victim and getting them help, so it just seems odd to me.
In the last one you can hear that a new operator tries to talk to Mark and get more information about what happened. Mark also admits to moving the gun after the shot goes off. Then in a move that I think is very wrong, the operator tells him to move it once again. It is fairly obvious why this is not okay. This is tampering with crime scene evidence whether it was a suicide or not. Messing with a vital piece of evidence is something that could’ve made this case impossible to categorize. On top of this it was only a one-shot shotgun that belonged to Mark although it seemed he was kind of unsure what type of gun it was. A one-shot shotgun would have no reason to have to be secured because it would not go off again without a reload.
The limited crime scene photos that I was able to see shown a very cluttered and messy trailer which makes for crime scene evidence collection to be very difficult. However, police choose not to collect pretty much anything, even main pieces of evidence that should’ve, without question, been collected. They did not even collect the couch that Dj had died on for evidence. Police basically told Mark he could clean up completely, so he subsequently burns the couch DJ had died on.
In addition to that police did not question anyone that day, they waited until a week later to do so. This gave all of the witnesses time to get their stories together.
The Autopsy was done on October 5, 2016 by Natasha Grandhi. The gunshot wound was from front to back, left to right, and slightly downward. The gun show entry was about 5” below the top of the head (on the front of the head, aka the face) and about 1” to the left of the midline of the face. The midline is basically where the middle of your face is. The exit wound was about 6.5” from the top of the head and about 6.25” to the right of the midline of the face. Easy way to understand it is the entrance wound was about the left side of the mouth and the exit was by the bottom of the right ear essentially. It was explained as a intraoral shotgun would so the barrel of the gun was in the mouth with the mouth closed.
The reason I am explaining the entrance and exit wounds so much is so to give you a clear picture of why it couldn’t have, or most likely couldn’t have been self-inflicted. First off, DJ was shot from the left side when he is right-handed. It is pretty much uniform that when you shoot a gun you use your dominant hand to pull the trigger. I am right-handed and I wouldn’t even be able to pull the trigger with my left finger. His exit wound is also lower than the entrance wound which means he was shot at a downward angle. This would be very difficult if not impossible for one to do to themselves, there would also be no point. Not to be overly morbid but generally when someone shoots themselves or plans to they go for the bullet to hit the brain because that is the most surefire way. If he was indeed trying to commit suicide why would he do the opposite and make himself uncomfortable in his last moments? There were two things that did not happen during the autopsy that definitely should have, those being DJ’s hands being tested for gunshot residue and his arms being measured. This would’ve shown if he could’ve even held the gun in the position that he was shot and could’ve pointed 100% to homicide. Having the gunshot residue test could’ve told us if DJ had held that gun and shot himself or not.
THC was found in his system during toxicology and so was methamphetamine. Even DJ himself and his family had stated that he had a drug problem so it is no secret and it has very little to do with this case. Except for the fact that the people, he ended up around when he was killed also had drug problems. A drug problem is a sickness, it is not something that should matter in these cases, only the murder should matter in this case.
From friends, family, and even witness accounts DJ was not depressed and did not voice any suicidal ideologies anytime before this alleged suicide. In an interview Amanda did with one of the witnesses to DJ’s death she does state that he would say ‘I’ll just kill myself.’ However, she states that he used this as a cop-out to get his way, which especially in my generation a lot of people do so I can understand him saying this but not being suicidal. To corroborate this is the fact that DJ was making future plans. I am sure you hear this referred to in many shows and podcasts. The fact is that those who have a real plan to end their lives do not tend to make future plans because they do not plan to be here and have no need to.
Even with all of this evidence Natasha Grandhi stated:
“As per investigation, Donald was last hear expressing suicidal ideations. His friend then heard a popping sound and saw Donald with a shotgun in his mouth…Based on information available at this time the manner of death is certified as suicide.”
Eventually DJ’s family hired a private investigator named Eric Echols who had worked on big cases in the past and is known for doing a good job. After finding a large amount of evidence that he thought pointed to homicide he went back to Natasha Grandhi who did the original autopsy and asked her to look over it again with all of the evidence that he had compiled.
When Grandhi calls back after looking over the evidence she states that since DJ’s toxicology shown meth, a stimulant, and no depressants it is a suicide. She said it “would not have prevented him from defending himself, he would be active.” When the PI asks if DJ could’ve been asleep she says no because there were no depressants found. Don’t get me started on what I think of that. Having only stimulants in your system does not mean there is no chance you could be asleep. Although DJ wasn’t asleep I think it should be noted. Therefore she will not change the ruling of suicide.
Lastly, Echols also asks if a gunshot residue test was done and she states, “No I did not do a firearm, gunshot residue collection, it was not requested.” I have never gone to medical school or whatever medical examiners go to but I find it kind of obvious that if only just to confirm suicide a gunshot residue test should be done.
The last piece of information about the autopsy I want to talk about is something that just seems so odd.. So Laura Pettler & Associates Death Investigations was a firm that worked with the family. Through their investigation, they found out that out of 44 autopsy photos 37 were missing from DJ’s file. Now the ME’s office states that those were pictures of different bodies. Apparently they are claiming to take pictures of multiple bodies at once which in itself I don’t think is wrong, maybe just efficient for them. But not all of the pictures available in DJ’s file are in order. It’s not pictures 1-7. It is like two pictures of DJ then 10 missing then 1 of Dj then another 5 missing. See what I’m getting at? It doesn’t make sense for their efficiency or their organization system to take pictures of bodies like that. That would just make it confusing.
If for some reason they did take a few pictures of one body, move to the next and make their rounds multiple times it is very unprofessional of them to put all of these photos in DJ’s file and then have to take 7 out. However, the other theory is that this could be some sort of cover-up. They took all of these pictures and found that something in those 37 contradicted their official ruling of suicide. If you remember back a few weeks ago I did an episode on the Kendrick Johnson case, another case in Georgia that was investigated wrongly if not ruled wrongly. Seems like something is up with the Georgia Beaura of Investigation.
Moving onto the interviews from both the police investigation, Eric Echols investigation, and even Amanda’s own investigation. First, let's discuss the interview of Mark during the initial police investigation.
My favorite quote in this interview is when Mark says ‘I would never hurt him, I wouldn’t wish death on nobody.” The reason this is my favorite quote is that then Mark fails to re-enact how the gun was positioned when DJ had it, when mark grabbed it, and when the gun went off. When watching this interview and the re-enactment it is clear that Mark’s hands are much closer to the trigger than DJ’s. So although I don’t believe Mark’s story is what happened, if it did somehow happen like this then Mark most likely pulled the trigger, not DJ. Mark also states that the gun never went in to DJ’s mouth but the autopsy stated that it was an intraoral shotgun wound so I am unsure who to believe in that scenario. I am leaning towards the science but don’t exactly trust Grandhi at this time. Mark also states that the gun went off when Brandy (DJ’s wife) pulled Mark’s arm. This seems to me like he is trying to cover his tracks incase they get him for manslaughter. He is saying well I didn’t mean to, it was because of her.
Although I could not access the files from Mark’s polygraph I was able to see the report from it. The two relevant questions were as follows:
Cop: Did you point that gun at DJ?
Cop: Did you shoot DJ?
Then the report stated this
“It is the opinion of the examiner that deception was indicated….after being confronted with the fact that deception was indicated…He admitted that there had been an occasion earlier where he pointed another weapon (a pellet rifle) at DJ…Examinee provided some additional information regarding the incident, some being inconsistent with previous statements.”
After this Mark also changes his account of what happened 5 or 6 times.
Mark Twain said it best, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
The next interview is between PI Echols and David Colburn. David Colburn was a witness to DJ’s death and therefore is very prevalent in this case. Besides the victim and the suspect David and Brandy (DJ’s wife) were the only other witnesses to what happened.
In addition to this interview being over 10 minutes a lot of it is David stating he already put that information in the report or he already told the police that. So much of it is unproductive but there are still quite a few things that are very productive in the interview.
David states that at the time of the shooting Mark and Brandy (who had been previously romantic together) stopped hooking up since she was still DJ’s wife and at this time all three were living together. David also states that before the shooting happened all of them were getting high. David address that his story changed during police interviews. He states that this is because he went along with Mark’s story for fear Mark would kill him next. David then states that DJ accidently got shot, he is firm on this through all of his interviews. He does admit that Mark had the gun and brought this gun to the living room although he did not see Mark point the gun at DJ. But Mark did change his shirt before 911 arrived because there was blood on his other one. Once again tampering with evidence. Oddly David is surprised to hear that DJ’s death was ruled a suicide. He states that his sister got a call from GBI saying that it was ruled an accidental shooting.
There is also a long video where Amanda, DJ’s sister talks with David Colburn and asks some questions.
Firstly, I want to bring up that David is known to have left the crime scene after DJ was shot and then came back before 911 arrived because he didn’t feel right leaving. I think in this case this is something we should all be grateful for because otherwise there was just Mark and brandy who’s stories contradict each other. But with David as a witness Brandy’s story gains more back up. David states that he does not think that Mark meant to kill DJ, he believes it was an accident and that Mark is not that kind of guy. However, throughout the conversation we also learn that a few weeks before the shooting Mark told Brandy that she could get a check if something happened to DJ. David also believes that Brandy knew Mark had the gun there. Before the gun, that mark was holding, went off DJ had his hand on the gun near the barrel to try and move it away. David confirms that Mark’s finger was on the trigger when the gun went off, after which Mark wiped down the gun with a rag. At this time Brandy had also touched the gun so she used a ton of hand sanitizer and changed her clothing before 911 arrived.
Here we also get an explanation for why there were multiple 911 calls. In this conversation/interview we learn that Mark hung up the calls every time Brandy was getting loud in the background. At one point she states that “he was shot to death” meaning DJ. When Mark stated that he was trying to grab the gun and get it away from DJ it is heard brandy saying in the background “that’s a lie.”
David states that he doesn’t understand how it was ruled a suicide based on solely the angle of the shot.
I was unable to find interviews with brandy (DJ’s wife) but in her written statement to PI Echols she clearly states that DJ did not commit suicide just like David did but yet GBI ruled it a suicide without further investigation.
Since this is a hard case with a lot of problems in the investigation and ruling I wanted to end on a little bit of a better note. At one point PI Echols chatted with Detective Ellenburg who worked on DJ’s case. Echols states that based on all the evidence and the inmate interview with David he 100% does not believe this was a suicide. He also states that while reviewing Ellenburg’s report he can see that Ellenburg does not believe it is a suicide either. Ellenburg even sent a letter to the DA to try and indict on this case. And he then confirms that he would stick to this report & letter if he was asked to do so in court.
If you are active on social media then please check out and use the #JusticeforDJ to spread the word about this case. There may be a wrongful death trial coming soon, hopefully it does not have to come that. The family just wants LE to admit their mistakes in the case and rule this a homicide or at least manslaughter as it should’ve been in the first place.
Here is a petition to sign to try and get GBI to reopen this case: https://www.change.org/p/demand-the-state-of-georgia-re-open-dj-fickeys-case-and-present-to-a-grand-jury
Here is the podcast on this case: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/25915808
(Images: Google, Written Report: Amanda Shirley)