Capital murder suspect Latoni Daniel conspired with a male inmate to get pregnant while in custody in the Coosa County Jail to compel leniency and perhaps be freed on bond while awaiting trial, sheriff Michael Howell said Wednesday.
Daniel, 27, of Alexander City could face the death penalty if she is convicted of the December 2017 robbery and shooting death of Thomas Virgil Chandler, 87, of Goodwater. Daniel, who is now being held in the Shelby County Jail without bond, is a co-defendant with LaDaniel Martel Tuck, 28, of Alexander City in the capital murder case.
Daniel had been in custody a year and was four months pregnant when she was transferred from the Coosa County Jail to the Talladega County Jail in December 2018. In May, one of her attorneys, Mickey McDermott of Montgomery, said Daniel may have been raped in jail while under the influence of a sedative for a seizure disorder and didn’t remember having sex.
But Wednesday, Howell and assistant district attorney Joe Ficquette of the 40th Judicial Circuit broke their long silence about the case, saying an independent state investigation showed Daniel conspired with inmate worker Danny Williams to get pregnant and was moved to another jail only because she was physically abusive to other inmates.
“Allegations that Daniel was raped while in the Coosa County Jail are completely untrue and fabricated,” Howell said during a nearly 13-minute briefing with Ficquette for reporters in Rockford. “In most capital murder cases a suspect doesn’t get bond. Latoni Daniel fabricated she had been raped so she would receive a bond or possibly a medical bond. Now that the investigation into the pregnancy of Latoni Daniel is complete, I want the truth to be known.”
Howell said other female inmates reported Daniel’s scheme with Williams to the sheriff’s department after being moved from the Coosa County Jail to the Talladega County Jail last December.
“She was transferred because she was abusing other inmates, not because she was pregnant,” Ficquette said.
Neither Howell nor Ficquette took questions afterward.
McDermott was undeterred, saying he will file a suit on Daniel’s behalf against Coosa County for child support once the baby’s birth certificate is filed. The capital murder trial will likely be next year.
“That was real nice of them to blame the victim,” McDermott said. “Please note that no one from the sheriff’s office has ever questioned my client.”
Howell said the Alabama Bureau of Investigation questioned Daniel but McDermott said many pertinent questions remain unanswered.
“Under Alabama law (the sheriff) is responsible for her safety,” he said. “She continues to say she gave no consent for sex. I have to ask why the sheriff allows male and female inmates to be in private and unsupervised, consensual or not.”
McDermott also disputed Howell’s characterization of the investigation as finished.
“(Tuesday night) we were contacted by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to meet with her so I believe the sheriff was premature,” McDermott said.
Ficquette said the murder victim has nearly been forgotten in all the attention paid to Daniel’s pregnancy.
“It has become apparent to me that in social media, in the world we live in today, that Ms. Daniel by some has been called a victim,” he said. “There are some that have even called her a hero. This is simply not true. This case has a victim and this case has a hero and they happen to be the same person — Mr. Virgil Chandler … a man that simply went to a local grocery store to buy groceries for his family as he had done many times in his life. And on his way home he was beset by individuals that brutally murdered him. No mercy. No quarter. All to take property from him in a robbery.”
Unmuted after months of restraint, Howell said the ABI had concluded its examination of the rape allegations and Daniel’s pregnancy, and he and Ficquette clearly relished the opportunity to rebut accusations of negligence from McDermott, who is representing her in the civil case. Jon Taylor is her criminal attorney.
“Over the past few months, allegations were made to the press about the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy of Latoni Daniel,” said Howell, who was elected last November and learned of her pregnancy after being sworn in on Jan. 15. “My office refrained from commenting on these allegations because of an investigation by the state. … We didn’t want to publicly trade barbs with Daniel and her representatives.”
Howell said Daniel was moved from the Coosa County Jail to the Talladega County Jail on Dec. 19, 2018, after having physical altercations with female inmates, including severely beating an elderly female inmate.
“After Ms. Daniel was moved out of our jail, other inmates of the Coosa County Jail came forward and notified us she had conspired with a male inmate worker, Danny Williams, to get pregnant,” Howell said. “Upon hearing these allegations, we called in the state bureau of investigation, an outside agency so that they could conduct a completely independent investigation. My office fully cooperated every step of the way. Interviews with other inmates, to include the inmate believed to be the father of the child, showed the circumstances bringing about the pregnancy were consensual. It was learned Daniel conspired to become pregnant so that she may gain leniency in her criminal case, specifically that she might be given bond in her capital murder case.”
Howell said Daniel gave birth to a boy on May 29 at Russell Medical and afterward the Alabama Department of Forensic Science conducted a paternity test.
“The results corroborated the story reported by Daniel’s fellow inmates and the father of Latoni Daniel’s child,” Howell said.
Look for more details in Friday’s Outlook.