Court

According to court records, more than 100 cases were cleared from the court system in April in Alexander City. 

Despite the productivity of the court system many notable cases remain to be adjudicated.

Kerley sex-abuse case continued to next term

According to court records, Spencer Lamar Kerley, 36, of Alexander City was indicted on two counts of first-degree sex abuse and one count of sex abuse of a child less than 12 in August 2018.

“We received the complaint that alleged an underage female may have been inappropriately touched,” Alexander City police chief Jay Turner said at the time of Kerley’s arrest in March 2018. “In cases like this we immediately start a process that includes a forensic interview with the alleged victim and counselors with the Tri-County (Children’s) Advocacy Center.  

“From there, we rely on the results of their findings to determine how we proceed. In this case, the information led us to pursue a warrant.”

Kerley was scheduled for trial in April but it is a relatively newer case compared to others on the docket and was continued to the next criminal trial term in Alexander City. Kerley is currently out of jail on bond.

Former minister still facing 2016 sex-abuse charges

Roy Eugene Wooten, a former minister at an Alexander City church, was indicted on multiple charges, including three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a minor female in August 2016.

Wooten, who was originally arrested Feb. 24, 2016 after an investigation by the Alexander City Police Department, remains free on $100,000 bond.

At the time of his arrest, Wooten was listed as the pastor at Church of God Prophecy in Alexander City. He no longer serves in that position.

Wooten is represented by attorney Thomas Radney of Alexander City who said in 2016 his client is ready to defend himself when it is time for trial.

“Mr. Wooten is innocent of these charges and we are eager to prove that with our defense of this case,” Radney said.

The case was on the April docket but was continued to the next term in Alexander City.

Suspects still facing trial in 2017 death of Hart

Dadeville residents Edward Rashun Thomas and Bobby Lee Ponds Jr are facing murder charges in the Jan. 18, 2017 shooting death of 27-year-old LaDarrell Lamar Hart in his Third Street home in Alexander City.

Ponds is currently out of jail on $100,000 bond and has a youthful offender status under advisement with Circuit Court Judge Ray Martin.

Thomas has been in jail since his arrest in January 2017 and has a $100,000 bond available to him. His case was on the April docket in Alexander City and has been continued to the next term.

Testimony by then-Alexander City Police Det. George Long and statements taken from witnesses that were read at a May 9, 2017 preliminary hearing allege Thomas was the triggerman, shooting Hart once in the chest and once in the head. Ponds helped take items from the scene and helped take evidence from the house, according to testimony.

The Outlook reported shortly after the arrest of Ponds and Thomas the two men were seen featured in a rap video entitled “Pistol In My Lap” posted on YouTube. The video was shot two days before the killing and posted the day before Hart was murdered. But after the story circulated, the video was removed from the site and is no longer available.

In a statement to police, Ponds said the gun shown being held by Thomas in that video was the murder weapon. It has been sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences along with the two bullets taken from Hart’s body for ballistics testing. Those results have not been finalized, Long said on the stand in May 2017.

Thomas said in a statement read by Long in court he did shot Hart, but claimed he didn’t intend to. But contrary to Ponds’ statement, he said Hart had groped him and he reacted by shooting the 27-year-old Walmart co-manager.

Long testified two Emerson televisions and a 2010 blue Dodge Charger were taken in the incident. 

Suspects awaiting trial for 2017 Dadeville murder

Tavorick Laquaz Black of Dadeville, Dazmon Notorious Shaw of Camp Hill and Daquon Denzel Sheeley of Jackson Gap have been charged in the 2017 death of 27-year-old John Ferrel Adamson.

Black has an open youthful offender application that is under advisement with Circuit Court Martin. Shaw is free on $250,000 bond and Sheeley has been in jail since his October 2017 arrest. Both Shaw and Sheeley are on the docket in Dadeville for the June criminal term.

Warrants for the three men charge them with murder and provide more details surrounding the Sept. 28, 2017 murder in Dadeville.

Black was alleged to commit murder in the commission of another crime, first-degree robbery. Black was arrested Oct. 4, 2017 and was released Oct. 19, 2017 on a $250,000 bond.

Shaw was arrested Sept. 29, 2017 and bonded out Oct. 4, 2017 on a $250,000 bond. Shaw’s warrant indicates he allegedly committed murder while trying to distribute a controlled substance.

Shaw is alleged to have committed the crime while out on bond on two other drug charges. Court records show Shaw was arrested in December 2016 for trafficking opium and was out on a $75,000 bond. While out on the trafficking bond, Shaw was arrested Aug. 4, 2017 for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and posted a $2,500 bond Aug. 14, 2017. The trafficking, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia charges have been bound over to the grand jury.

Sheeley was arrested Oct. 4, 2017 and according to his warrant is said to have committed murder while in the commission of robbery first.

Black, Shaw and Sheeley also face attempted murder charges.

Dadeville police chief David Barbour said 911 dispatch received several calls of shots fired in that area at 12:47 a.m. Sept. 28, 2017. Officers arrived shortly thereafter finding Adamson and 37-year-old Gerald Haggerty lying in Jah Street with gunshot wounds. They were transported to Lake Martin Community Hospital where Adamson died. Haggerty was treated there and then flown to Columbus, Georgia, for continued treatment.

While Barbour has not released any further details of the incident, residents on Jah Street said they heard about six shots over a 10-second time frame. One resident said one of the victims could be seen running from the shooter almost “running out of his clothes” while seeking cover at a nearby home.

Former Camp Hill police chief faces trial

The trial of former Camp Hill police chief Roosevelt Finley Jr. has been continued to the next term. 

Finley, 59, of Opelika, is charged with seven counts of violation of ethics laws after an Alabama Ethics Commission investigation recommended criminal charges. He was arrested in March 2017 and released after posting a $100,000 property bond.

The indictment alleges Finley used his position as police chief in Camp Hill for personal gain.

One charge alleges that Finley sold his personal vehicle using the website GovDeals.com and directly received the funds. The site is for government use only and is often where surplus goods are peddled by cities and towns.

Five counts allege Finley used a Camp Hill Police Department debit card to purchase items such as meals, items at department stores, a Sam’s Club membership, fuel for personal use and toner for a printer. In some of the indictments, it is alleged Finley was also reimbursed by the town for those purchases even although they were paid for originally with city funds.

One count alleges Finley received a $2,450 check written from “Camp Hill Police Department Narcotics for the sale of jewelry.”

Finley was terminated from the position he had held for 22 years Oct. 20, 2014. While reasons for the move were not given at the time, at a subsequent hearing the reasons given by then-Camp Hill Mayor Danny Evans said Finley “violated protocol and had discrepancies in payroll.”

The case is currently on the docket for June in Dadeville before Circuit Court Judge Steve Perryman.

Reckless murder suspect awaits trial in jail

Anthony Davon Parker was indicted August 2017 for reckless murder in the death of 18-year-old Quentavious Arrion Reese. He had his bond revoked in September 2018. 

“He picked up new charges in Jacksons Gap,” district attorney Jeremy Duerr said at a bond hearing last year. “He was shooting from a vehicle toward a structure.”

Duerr said the new charges could be presented to a grand jury. 

It is alleged Parker was at the home of Jeffery Bruno off Robinson Road near Alexander City and was shooting a .45 caliber handgun in March 2017. Parker had been target shooting and Reese had been at the home before leaving in a vehicle with a group of friends. A short time later the vehicle carrying Reese returned down the road toward the home and a number of shots, allegedly fired by Parker, were directed toward the vehicle. One shot struck Reese in the head as he rode in the backseat of the vehicle, according to information heard at a preliminary hearing.

Reese, who was a senior at Benjamin Russell and had been offered a basketball scholarship, was taken to Russell Medical then flown to the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, where he later died.

The case was on the April trial docket but was continued to the next term in Alexander City.

Hit-and-run suspect granted preliminary hearing in July

Robert Lancaster, 34, of Jacksons Gap is charged with manslaughter in the death of Tina Doranne Guerrero.

Guerrero, 50, was struck while outside of her stopped vehicle on the River Bridge in the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 2018. She was found by a witness who drove up on the scene and called 911.

“An officer responded to a call of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle on the River Bridge,” Turner said the day after the incident. “It appeared the victim’s vehicle had broken down and the victim was either checking on the stopped vehicle or trying to wave down help.”

Turner later said investigators pulled off a difficult investigation after Lancaster was arrested.

“They pulled off the nearly impossible,” Turner said in December 2018. “I didn’t think they would get this close this soon.”

Lancaster’s preliminary hearing has been set for July 24.

Capital murder suspect awaiting trial

The state has not decided if it will seek the death penalty against Nicholas Seth Harrison in the 2017 murder of Denzel Pope.

Harrison was indicted in January for capital murder in the death of Pope, 21, of Sylacauga, who died after being shot while traveling in a light gold four-door 1993 Acura Legend on Sept. 19, 2017. Pope’s vehicle came to a stop on the side of the westbound lanes of Highway 280, just west of Tallapoosa Ford and across from McDaniel Supply and Storage.

Alexander City Police Department Det. Drew Machen testified at a preliminary hearing in December 2017 about written statements from witnesses in the case, including one from Pope’s girlfriend and her close friend.

Machen read statement excerpts that said Harrison was part of a plot to set Pope up for being unfaithful to his girlfriend. Another woman was then used to send messages to Pope and arrange a meeting. But rather than a woman showing up, witness statements indicate Harrison confronted Pope and chased after him from Walmart where the meeting was held.

ACPD Det. Riley Foshee testified about how Harrison was identified as a suspect and his role in the investigation.

A short time after authorities were called to the scene and discovered Pope deceased in his vehicle, a car was stopped for reckless driving by Dadeville Police Department officers, Foshee’s testimony confirmed. The driver of that car was identified as Harrison and bullet holes, a 9-mm handgun and five 9-mm shell casings were found in Harrison’s Ford Fusion, according to testimony from Foshee.

Other facts that came out in preliminary hearing included:

• Foshee testified he performed a gunshot residue test on the hand of Harrison and it was positive, indicating that he had been exposed to gunpowder.

• Machen said an autopsy report listed a gunshot to the head as the cause of death and the means of death was listed as homicide.

• Machen testified no gun or shell casings were found inside Pope’s vehicle.

• The ballistics reports have not been returned from the crime lab to verify if the weapon and projectiles match the gun found in Harrison’s vehicle.

• Video from Walmart and from Satterfield Machine Shop and Outdoor Living was also gathered and was said to depict the vehicles of the suspect and victim.

• Harrison’s defense team asked why the women who allegedly helped in the plot had not been charged and if they had been given immunity or offered any type of deal. Machen said he didn’t know why they hadn’t been charged and had not been given immunity.

Harrison is currently being held in jail with no bond available. Pending motions in the case are due to be heard by Martin May 30.

 Sex-abuse case dismissed against Alexander City man

Court records indicate Arthur Bama Daniel, 62, of Alexander City was indicted Aug. 12, 2016 and arrested Aug. 18, 2016 after results of an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of the child were reported to police in 2016.

Daniel was free on a $20,000 bond but was due to appear in court on April 9, 2018. When he didn’t show up for court, Judge Steven Perryman issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The case never went to trial and was dismissed following Daniel’s death of natural causes according to court documents.

Hutcherson to have hearing

Justin Kyle Hutcherson of New Site has a hearing set for May 30 for a change of venue motion.

“All local media has sensationalized the nature of the charge against the defendant to the point that it will be impossible for the defendant to receive a fair and impartial jury in Tallapoosa County,” the motion states.

Opelika attorney Zachary D. Alsobrook represents Hutcherson, 32, who was indicted on 61 counts involving an investigation into the possession of child pornography.

Alsobrook said in his motion filed March 13 citizens in Tallapoosa County and the district attorney shared a story by The Outlook on Facebook and the district attorney went on to comment about it.

“The district attorney assured concerned citizens that his office had a very strong case,” Alsobrook’s motion stated.

Hutcherson was indicted by a Tallapoosa County grand jury March 1. Duerr told The Outlook about the charges after Hutcherson’s arrest on March 1.

Alsobrook made statements in a motion after Hutcherson’s indictment accusing the district attorney’s office of malice in the handling of the case.

“The State of Alabama is attempting to railroad through 13 criminal counts against the defendant without so much as a preliminary hearing being had,” Alsobrook’s motion read. “…The state is doing so because it knows that upon the complaining officer being cross-examined that this court would have certainly thrown out the majority if not all the counts against the defendant. If the state wanted to bring this matter before the grand jury for probable cause, it had that ability prior to arresting the defendant on a citizen’s warrant.”

Alsobrook also stated in a motion for his client in March that Hutcherson placed a camera in his own home and had certain images saved to his personal computer.

Hutcherson is currently out of jail on bond.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.

Staff Writer

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.