Burrell avoids trial with plea of guilty to all counts
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Just a day after Zakkawanda Moss was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences, 360 years, Henry Burrell stood before the court in Lincoln County Wednesday, pleading guilty to six counts of first-degree premeditated murder and agreeing to a sentence of 120 years.
That deal will keep Burrell in prison long enough for him to never again see the light of day as a free man and avoids a trial similar to the one faced by Moss last November – that trial ended with a jury returning six first-degree murder convictions in the deaths of six in Lincoln County in October of 2012.
The murder victims include 23-year-old Chabreya Campbell and her seven-month-old fetus, Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards), 16-month-old Rashad Obrian Ragland, 21-year-old Amber McCauley, 22-year-old Jessica Brown, and 24-year-old Warren Crutcher.
During court Wednesday, District Attorney General Robert Carter described the murders of each of the victims, including an unborn child as well as a 16-month-old boy, which took place that October night. Circuit Court Judge Forest Durard then asked Burrell if agreed with Carter’s description. Pausing, squinting, then looking upward, Burrell said, “yeah, yes sir.”
Burrell had followed suit with Moss in entering a request for a speedy trial, the judge said, then asking Burrell why he changed his mind and decided to ask for a deal. “I just want to get it over with myself,” Burrell answered.
“I want you to understand you’ll never walk the streets again,” said Durard. “Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” Burrell answered.
The convicted felon’s use of “sir” throughout most of his answers to the judge belied his demeanor at the end of the hearing when Burrell, shackled in chains and led from the courtroom, winked and nodded at the media and then did the same in the direction of the families of each of the murder victims.
“For him to act like that in our courtroom doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Carter. “This is what happens to people who make those types of decisions. That only makes me more firm in my belief that what we did is good, not only for the state but for society as a whole.”
Prior to considering Burrell’s offer to plead guilty to his role in the string of murders, the district attorney general had met in private with the families of the victims, letting them know what was on the table and asking for their feedback. Initially Burrell had said he would plead guilty to each of the murders for only one life sentence, but that offer was declined by the state. It was the counter of two life sentences, which would keep him jail throughout the remainder of his life, that the state then considered accepting.
Public Defender Donna Hargrove commended her staff and expressed her appreciation to the district attorney general’s office, saying, “I and my staff offer our condolences to the families of each of the victims … It hasn’t been easy on any of those involved, not the victims’ families, nor the family of Mr. Burrell.”
In Carter’s statements during the hearing, he said if the case went to trial, the state would present evidence as to the following. Noting that in 2012 Warren Crutcher was engaged in the sale of illegal drugs and that Henry Burrell was a member of “his crew,” he said Burrell and Crutcher had met while both men were incarcerated.
“Warren Crutcher had expressed an interest in relocating his operation to Atlanta, a move which would have left Henry Burrell and Zakkawanda Moss without their livelihood,” said Carter. “In addition, Mr. Crutcher was using drugs himself to the point that Henry considered him Warren unreliable. “Henry Burrell and Zakkawanda Moss decided to kill Warren Crutcher and to steal his money and drugs, which [they] knew were customarily hidden at the Lincoln County homes where Warren Crutcher resided at times with his female companions and children.”
Carter said that on Oct. 21-22, Burrell lured Crutcher to met him and Moss at one of those residences – “Unbeknownst to Henry Burrell, Warren Crutcher’s new girlfriend, Amber McCaulley was with Warren when he arrived. Ms. McCaulley was executed and her body dragged from the vehicle in the garage and thrown into a makeshift laundry room.
“The crime spree then moved inside the house located on the Huntsville Highway, which was occupied by pregnant Chabreya Campbell and her two sons,” he said, referring to Rico who was stomped to death, perhaps to coerce information from Campbell. “Chabreya was beaten, tied up and placed in a bathtub of water where she was ultimately strangled.”
The killing spree then moved to the home of Jessica Brown on Foxwood Drive, the district attorney general continued. “Inside that house, where Jessica lived with her two-month-old son, the men beat and subdued Ms. Brown, tying her up and putting her in a bathtub containing water. There, Jessica Brown was tortured, with ligatures around her throat, pulled so tight, probably repeatedly, that the cords and strings cut multiple times into the flesh of the young woman’s throat.”
The homes were looted and ransacked by Burrell and Moss, he continued, saying that, “Warren Crutcher was then executed from behind while seated in his car, the white Hyundai Elantra, bleeding copiously as his body was taken from Tennessee to a secluded wooded spot just across the Alabama state line and dumped before being covered with branches on B.H. Reaves Road.”
Moss and Burrell then drove Crutcher’s car to Huntsville, dropping it off at an apartment complex on Sparkman Drive. The two men then called Burrell’s girlfriend to pick them up.
“When Henry Burrell and Zakkawanda Moss got in her car, they were reeking of the smell of fresh blood … Henry Burrell wore gloves and Zakkawanda Moss carried weapons that were taken from Warren Crutcher,” said Carter. “The men tried to get more money with Crutcher’s debit card and then, while en route to Moss’ home to change clothes, they tossed cell phones, guns and ammo out of the girlfriend’s car in an effort to get rid of incriminating evidence. Henry Burrell and Zakkawanda’s clothes were disposed of in a dumpster at an apartment complex.”