As family members and friends of his six murder victims shed tears in the courtroom, Zakkawanda “Face” Moss stood to hear the verdict returned by a Lincoln County jury Friday afternoon.
Jurors had deliberated about an hour and a half before returning the verdict of guilty to all six counts of first-degree murder. They had weighed the testimony of more than 60 witnesses and the merit of over 250 pieces of evidences presented in the trial that saw them sequestered for two weeks.
“A case like this has absolutely no winners,” said District Attorney General Robert Carter. “The victims are lost. The defendant is in jail for the rest of his life. And the families have had to go through the trial and live the rest of their lives knowing what happened … No, we’re not pleased, but we do think justice has been rendered.”
Circuit Court Judge Forest Durard set the sentencing hearing for Jan. 21. At that time, he’ll have to decide whether to sentence Moss to six consecutive or concurrent life sentences. The state, Carter said, will be asking that the sentences run consecutively, or one after the other, so that Moss never has an opportunity to be free again.
With the verdict, Moss is guilty of the intentional and premeditated murders of six victims, including an unborn child. Those victims are Amber McCaulley, 21; Chabreya Rael Campbell, 22, who was seven months pregnant with a baby girl; Chabreya’s son, Rashad O’Brien (Rico) Ragland, 16 months of age; Jessica Lee Brown, 21; and Warren Vincent Crutcher, 24.
“We’re proud of the verdict we got,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder. “This case has been very hard on everyone involved.”
In February, Henry Lee Burrell, 36, of Fayetteville is scheduled to go on trail here in Lincoln County Circuit Court. He is also charged with six counts of first-degree murder in the same chain of events that led to Moss’ conviction, but Carter said Burrell’s trial will be different. The general, though, would not say whether he’ll seek the death penalty in that case.
“We are pleased with the verdict the jury returned,” said Carter, expressing his appreciation of the jury and going on to thank his assistant district attorneys, the agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that worked the case, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department including the sheriff and his investigators, as well as the Fayetteville Police Department and its investigator assisting in the case, and authorities with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, which assisted. “Everyone has been unbelievably helpful in this case. That’s what it takes to get the verdict we got here today.”
Moss’ counsel, defense attorney Herschel Koger, did not wish to make a comment following the completion of the trial.
Monday, Nov. 18, Testimony
Week two of the state’s case in murder trial was filled with expert witnesses testifying. Thomas Stanfield, a representative for Woodforce National Banks, testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Holly Eubanks to records showing Moss’ attempted use of Warren Crutcher’s debit card an ATM machines on Sparkman Drive on Oct. 22 with transaction times at 2:39 and 2:40 a.m. Moss allegedly made two attempts to withdraw $800, both without success.
Stanfield verified Crutcher’s debit card number and testified that it was the same card that someone attempted to use at Wal-Mart. Defense Attorney Koger had no questions for Stanfield.
Assistant District Attorney Ann Filer called TBI Special Agent Wayne Wesson to the stand. “You’re probably going to have a jury out with Mr. Wesson,” Koger said before testimony. At issue was the graphic evidence to be presented. Judge Durard also forewarned family members of the victims that were in the courtroom that it could be graphic and emotional and that they may want to step out of the room during that time. Koger argued against some of the bloodiest photos, saying, “I’m objecting to the prejudicial nature of the photos.” Filer argued that this was a murder trial and that the probative value of the photos outweighed the prejudicial. Judge Durard looked over the photos and omitted some of the more disturbing close-up pictures from the jury’s review.
After the jury was called back in, Wesson was called to the stand. Wesson viewed photos of the exterior and interior of the Huntsville Highway home where Chabreya Campbell lived with her children and Crutcher some of the time. Wesson described in detail the disarray of the house, crime scenes, position of bodies and condition along with the trail of blood he observed while going through the house and garage with the CID team. Next to the 16-month-old Rashad Ragland “Baby Rico”, he noted that the side of the face and part of his neck had marks that appeared to be shoe prints. He also noted what appeared to be a partial bloody shoe print close to the baby’s body.
Filer showed Wesson more photos of the second crime scene at 4 Foxwood Drive where the agent and Sheriff Murray Blackwelder had gone later the morning on Oct. 23. The evidence from both homes was photographed, videoed, measured and mapped then processed by scientists. Again Wesson described the disarray in the home, ammunition found, and the image of victim Jessica Brown in the bathtub. The photos were handed to the jury to examine.
Wesson wrote warrants and subpoenas for numerous cell phones used by Moss, Henry Burrell and Angalee Hill, Burrell’s girlfriend. The phone calls linked the three individuals together with Crutcher. Koger had no questions.
Sgt. T.A. Miller of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department was called to the stand early Monday evening. Sgt. Miller observed on a computer screen while Sgt. Brent Patterson conducted an interview with Moss following the murders. Sgt. Miller, his supervisor, stated that as Sgt. Patterson took a break, he watched Moss take out a cell phone and start texting. The cell phone was confiscated, and Miller put the phone in an envelope and turned it over to Joey Hughes of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, assigned to forensics. Moss whispered to his attorney, who then questioned Sgt. Miller about the brand name of the phone. Miller replied that it was a LG Double Play phone and that T-Mobile was the service. There were no more questions from the defense.
Tuesday, Nov. 19, Testimony
On Tuesday morning the state’s first witness was Rhonda Killensworth, with the Huntsville Police Department. Killensworth is a latent examiner who examines crime scenes and classifies evidence. She examined five white latent cards, which were found in the white Hyundai Elantra rented by Crutcher and girlfriend, Amber McCaulley. “They didn’t meet the criteria … for minimum processing,” said Killensworth. “I couldn’t work with them in a short time period,” she said. The defense had no questions.
Eubanks called TBI Special Agent Alex Broadhaig to the stand. As a crime lab examiner, he examines firearms, cartridges and bullets. He examined all of the guns, cartridges, bullets and magazines associated with the crimes, noting that two items from the Elantra and the two from Crutcher’s head had similar rifling. Broadhaig examined the bullets from Crutcher’s head following the autopsy and found that the bullets from Crutcher’s head and the dashboard were fired through the same barrel of the same firearm. Broadhaig determined that the fourfired cartridges he examined had not been fired in the Elantra, but the four cartridge cases found in the Elantra were fired from the same pistol.
On cross-examination, Koger questioned Broadhaig about rifling marks and guns that had similar characteristics.
Filer called expert witness Dr. Feng Li, senior associate medical examiner in Nashville, to the stand. Li deals with crime scenes containing violent and unnatural death. He examined five of the victims, including Chabreya Campbell’s unborn child and described in detail both the external and internal injuries of five of the victims. In each case he stated that each victim died as a result of homicide.
On cross, Koger asked about the definition of contusions and abrasions and asked if someone fell if it could cause an abrasion. He also disputed the seated position that Amber McCauley might have been in when she was shot in the head at close range.
Next Special Agent Jennifer Spivey with the TBI Nashville Crime Lab testified. She is a special agent for forensics with a specialty in latent prints and is a member of the violent crime response team. She testified as a qualified expert in the field of latent prints and examined numerous items from both Foxwood and Huntsville Highway crime scenes. She found prints identified as latent fingerprints on a Bud Lite beer bottle from the trashcan at the Huntsville Highway home. The print belonged to Moss, she stated. Warren Crutcher’s fingerprints were found on a music CD and both palms and a finger of Henry Burrell’s were found in the Jeep Cherokee. Prints were not found on the guns. Spivey said it was unusual for prints to be found on a gun because of the textured surface.
The next expert witness was TBI Special Agent Dr. Linda Littlejohn, who specializes in forensics and microanalysis. She took an impression of the tire tracks that went through the blood trail in the garage, as well as an impression of the tires on the Hyundai Elantra rental car. She said the impression was consistent with size and tread of the Elantra. She and Hodge made lifts of bloody shoe prints at the Huntsville Highway house in the garage, living room near baby Rico, kitchen. Ten of the shoe prints were consistent with the size, shape and tread design of Moss’s right shoe and one with the left shoe. Koger states that there are a lot of different shoe designs … “so you can’t tell the jury that this shoe definitely made these prints,” Koger said.
Wednesday, Nov. 20, Testimony
Wednesday morning Filer interviewed Dr. Emily Ward, an expert in her field of anatomic and clinical pathology and a forensic scientist. She performed the autopsy on Warren Crutcher. The external investigation of the body showed insect activity and there was dirty material, leaves and twigs on the body. She stated that some rigamortis and decomposition had occurred. In addition to the three bullet wounds to the head, there was a linear abrasion on his forearm consistent with dragging.
On cross, Koger questions about the insect activity and the clothing Crutcher was wearing at the time, as well as the abrasion on his forearm. He asks the doctor if the abrasions could also be caused by something else rubbing against his skin. “Yes,” said Ward.
TBI Special Agent Laura Boos, who works in forensic biology and specializes in DNA testing, testified. She is recognized as an expert in serology and DNA testing. A beer bottle was tested indicating that there was DNA from two people on the neck, and one of them was Moss. “The probability of a match exceeds the current world population,” Boos stated. A cigarette butt and beer bottle from the driveway matched Crutcher’s DNA, and the blood profile of a stain on the bottle matched with Crutcher.
The interior door trim of the Jeep Cherokee was tested for the presence of blood and DNA. The exterior tests for blood failed but a limited sample of DNA with mixed genetic material of three individuals was found on the interior side door. Blood and DNA from the Hyundai Elantra matched Amber McCaulley and Warren Crutcher. Boos testified to other connections between the victims and the defendant.
Bridget McGraw Holdren, an employee with the state of Alabama, was called to testify. Two weeks after the murders Holdren stated, “Moss asked, didn’t they have a certain amount of time to charge you with something?”
Kevin Turner, chief investigator with the Madison County DA’s office, took the stand, testifying about drug terminology, such as ‘hitting a lick’ which he said means doing a robbery.
TBI Special Agent and expert witness Nicholas Christian was called to testify. He works with technical services and extracts media from digital media, cell phones and computers. He testified about two cell phones. One was Amber Brown’s white iPhone. A text message went out at 10:59 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2012 to her mother stating that her phone “finnin to die”. That was the last communication from Amber, Christian said. His next report was on an LG Double Play phone for which a time line was prepared and a number of communications linking Moss’s phone to several individuals. One of the text messages recovered to a “WB” on Oct. 21, 2012 was “I’m comin with dude we gonna lick.”
The last witness called was Detective Sgt. Adam Eubanks of the Fayetteville Police Department. He has had specialized certification in cell phone technology, forensic smart phone technology and other forensic training for cell phones. With this he can determine the location of cell phone towers and the side of a cell phone tower that is accessed by a cell phone. Eubanks’ testimony and maps connected Crutcher, Burrell, Moss, and Angelee Hill on Oct. 21-22 during times in question.