Archived Story

Convicted killer released after 60-day sentence

Published 12:34pm Wednesday, December 5, 2012

By Kevin Taylor, Staff Writer

Fewer than 60 days after he reported to the Elmore County Jail to serve his one-year jail sentence, Brian Alan Little is now a free man.

Little pleaded guilty to homicide by vessel in connection to the boating death of 26-year-old Ashley Williams.

Witnesses said Little was drunk while driving the pontoon boat filled with people and when Williams went missing, he jumped off the boat and swam to shore.

Little, 28, was later found by Alabama Marine Police two weeks later.

During a sentence review on Monday before Circuit Court Judge Ben Fuller, Little’s attorney requested his early release after presenting a letter written by Williams’ mother on Nov. 8 saying it would be OK for Little’s early release.

During the court hearing assistant district attorney Amanda Johnson told Fuller that the “state agreed to remain silent” per the plea agreement.

“Since the mother has written this letter, she has since called us with a differing opinion,” Johnson told Fuller. “But at this point we feel our hands are tied.”

Deborah Williams wrote the letter as part of a civil lawsuit settlement against Little and his father.

Fuller granted the release of Little, who will now be on three years of supervised probation.

“We want the laws down there to change so this doesn’t happen to another family like ours,” Williams told The Wetumpka Herald.

So at the beginning of this next state legislative term, 19th Judicial Circuit District Attorney Randall Houston as well as local lawmakers Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) and Rep. Barry Mask (R-Wetumpka) will be working to get the law changed.

“We’ve talked with Bryan and Barry, and they are supportive of the law change,” Houston said.

As it stands, homicide by vessel is categorized as an unclassified felony and there is a difference between boating under the influence and driving (a car) under the influence.

“If we do get a good investigation, it’s a slap on the wrist,” Houston added. “If it were to happen on the road, it would be a severe sanction.

“It’s just what the law is, and that’s why the law needs to be changed. It will take the Legislature to change the attitude.”

Mask and Taylor are fully on board with changing the law to ensure there is no difference between a BUI and a DUI.

“It’s just disheartening to see how light these sentences are when it involves boating while impaired,” Mask said.

Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City), who represents Lee and Tallapoosa County, said he plans on supporting the efforts of Mask, Taylor and Houston.

“I would say if you are responsible for a motorized vehicle and are under the influence and have an accident, the avenue for prosecution should be the same (no matter the vehicle),” Tuggle said.

Two years ago the same bills, which are now prefiled for this upcoming term, were filed but not brought before the Legislature.

“The last time we filed it in Montgomery, there didn’t seem to be any opposition,” Houston said. “The problem was the gambling stuff (the closure of VictoryLand) took over and it never got to the floor. I hope we get the same support this time around.”

Taylor said this proposed law will be a priority of his and Mask’s in the upcoming term.

“We’ll move both bills simultaneously,” Taylor said. “We’d like to get the bill on the first committee agenda and then on to one of the floors.”

Taylor said in previous Republican caucuses, he has “sensed widespread support” regarding the proposed bill.

“We’ve gotten positive feedback, and it just makes sense,” he said.

The Williams’ accident is one of three fatal boating accidents on area lakes in the last decade.

In August 2008, Edwin D. Tatum and Sue Tatum died in a boating accident on Lake Martin involving Patrick Leigh Cumbie Jr.

Cumbie pleaded guilty in October 2009 to homicide by vessel and was sentenced to serve one year in county jail.

On July 1, 2006, Michael Haslam was killed in a boating accident on Lake Jordan.

John Faulk allegedly ran into the pontoon boat, on which Haslam was a passenger, and did not stop to assist the passengers.

Faulk also was arrested and charged with homicide by vessel. He was later convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Taylor said the bill would give a prosecutor “an even playing field” so that the law is no different whether driving under the influence or boating under the influence.

“We want the district attorneys to have the tools necessary to prosecute BUI to the fullest extent of the law,” Taylor added.

Kevin Taylor is copy editor for The Wetumpka Herald.

Austin Nelson contributed to this report.