She worked the night shift, logging arduous hours in the delicatessen at a south Fulton Publix, nearly an hour’s drive from her Powder Springs home.
But Toni Abad never lost her cheerful spirit, and JoLynn Griffin knew it well. Abad stopped by Griffin’s house most every night after she got off work, where the two longtime friends would talk about their day and watch “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
“She had a contagious laugh,” Griffin said. “She just made you feel good.”
Beyond her laugh, Abad is remembered for her selflessness. That generous heart cost Abad, 58, her life after police say she agreed to give a homeless teenager a ride around midnight last Thursday.
“I think she saw this young girl, thought about her own kids, and just wanted to help her out, especially at this time of year,” said Tim Abad, one of Toni’s four sons. “‘People don’t hurt poor old ladies.’ That’s what she would’ve said.”
Tragically, Abad’s faith was misplaced. De’asia Page, 18, told Fulton County police she led Abad to a nearby location where 18-year-old Jared Kemp was waiting with a baseball bat. Surveillance video showed Page trying to flag down rides that night outside the Publix off Campbellton Fairburn Road.
Tim Abad said prosecutors told him today that his mother was ambushed and beaten repeatedly with the bat. Page told law enforcement that the mother of four and grandmother of five was still alive when she was thrown into the trunk of her car.
“She was choking on her own blood,” Tim Abad said, repeating what Page told police about his mother’s final moments.
Last Friday, Fulton police responded to a call about a suspicious car parked behind the Waffle House at the intersection of Thompson Road and Ga. 92. The driver’s side window was shattered.
Griffin said she saw the report about the car on the next day’s local news but tried not to think the worst, just as she had done the night before when her friend didn’t stop by after work. She called Publix but no one there had seen Toni Abad since she left on Thursday.
“And she never called in sick,” Griffin said. “I just didn’t want to believe something like this could happen to her.”
Previous reports stated that the teens stole Christmas presents from Abad’s vehicle, but her son said that was likely not the case. In fact, it appears nothing was stolen from Abad. She still had her ATM debit card and Griffin said her friend never carried cash.
Page told police they were looking for a car in which they could spend the night. For whatever reason, that plan went awry.
“It’s just so senseless,” Tim Abad said. “If they had just told her they didn’t have anywhere to go she would’ve gotten them a hotel room.”
The two teens are being held without bond in Fulton County jail, charged with murder and aggravated assault. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 9.
Toni Abad’s family and friends are still processing their loss. Christmas was especially difficult for Abad’s children and grandchildren.
“She lived for her grandkids,” said Tim Abad. The newest grandchild, a girl, was born just six week ago, and Toni Abad was there to witness the birth.
“She came to my house every Christmas Eve and spent the night,” said her son. “This year it was like Christmas didn’t even happen.”