death penalty news----TENN., KY., NEB., CALIF., USA
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Rick Halperin
2017-09-23 12:34:53 UTC
Sept. 23


Holly Bobo trial verdict: Guilty verdict for Zachary Adams in 2011 slaying

The man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a Tennessee nursing student
has been found guilty of murder and aggravated rape in the 2011 slaying of
Holly Bobo.

Zachary Adams, 33, has been standing trial in Savannah, Tenn. in the slaying of
20-year-old Holly Bobo, who vanished from her Parsons home on April 13, 2011. 2
ginseng hunters found her remains 3 1/2 years later in woods in Decatur County,
about 100 miles southwest of Nashville.

A sequestered jury of 6 men and 6 women who heard the case in a Savannah
courthouse began deliberating Thursday afternoon, the trial's 10th day. Judge
C. Creed McGinley moved the trial to Hardin County in search of an unbiased

The same jury will decide if Adams will get the death penalty.

Bobo's brother Clint testified that on the day of his sister's disappearance,
he saw an unidentified man wearing camouflage leading her into woods behind the
family's home. Prosecutors said Adams was involved in the "dark world" of
methamphetamine and morphine when he and 2 other men abducted Bobo, held her
against her will, raped her, killed her and hid her remains.

In his closing argument Thursday, prosecutor Paul Hagerman said the testimony
of star witness Jason Autry pointed to Adams' guilt. Autry testified he helped
Adams move what he thought was Bobo's body wrapped in a blanket, and when she
moved -- indicating she was still alive -- acted as a lookout as Adams shot her
by the Tennessee River.

"She was never gonna come out of that blanket alive, not a chance," Hagerman
said. "[Autry] knew just how guilty he was, just how guilty they all were - and
for years, he kept his secret."

Hagerman said Autry came clean to investigators in late 2016. Autry and Adams'
brother, John Dylan Adams, also are charged with kidnapping, raping and killing
Bobo. A 4th man, Shayne Austin, was also charged in the case. Austin was found
dead in a Florida hotel room in what police said was an apparent suicide in
February 2015.

In his closing argument, Hagerman said it was Austin who walked with Bobo into
the woods. Then Austin and the Adams brothers raped Bobo in Austin's
grandmother's barn, Hagerman said.

The names of all 4 men had surfaced early in the investigation, Hagerman said,
but a former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lead detective became convinced
a sex offender was responsible for the killing and "didn't listen" to the clues
that pointed to Adams as the killer.

Hagerman pointed to incriminating statements Adams made to friends and jail
inmates about Bobo.

Friend Anthony Phoenix used an expletive to describe how Adams told him that he
"couldn't have picked" a prettier woman. Christopher Swift said Adams asked him
if God would forgive him for the "Holly killing," while they were both jailed

Jason Autry identifies Zachery Adams during his testimony on day 5 of the Holly
Bobo murder trial, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Savannah, Tenn. Autry and
Adams' brother, John Dylan Adams, also face charges of kidnapping, rape and
murder in the case.

He also referenced a gun in Bobo's killing months before her remains were found
and her cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the head,
Hagerman said.

But a defense attorney countered in a more than 2-hour closing argument that
the state's case is "absolutely full of holes" and is based on "non-evidence"
against her client. Jennifer Thompson said Autry made up a story 3 years after
his 2014 arrest and "sold" it to the government in hopes of avoiding the death

Hagerman argued that Autry's story had been "corroborated, corroborated, and
corroborated again" by testimony. But Thompson said Autry already knew of
evidence accumulated in the case and could have used that to pepper his story
with elements of truth. She said Autry was too street smart to allow himself to
be manipulated into helping Adams dispose of Bobo's body even though he says he
wasn't involved in the rape, abduction or murder.

She said a rational person "wouldn't automatically put themselves in the middle
of a murder with a dead body if they don't have to."

Thompson said there's no question that people involved in the case are
"talkers" and noted that Adams was a meth user.

"Zach Adams has said some stupid things over the years," Thompson said. "That
does not mean he killed Holly Bobo."

Bobo's family was in court throughout the emotional trial. Bobo's mother Karen
at one point collapsed, sobbing, as she testified.

Bobo's father was seen putting his arm around his wife during Hagerman's
closing statement Thursday.

(source: CBS News)


Sizemore seeks to move murder trial

Attorneys representing Raleigh Sizemore Jr., charged with the murder of
Richmond police officer Daniel Ellis, have asked to have his trial moved out of
Madison County.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Sizemore and co-defendant Gregory
Ratliff. Police say Sizemore shot Ellis in the head inside Ratliff's apartment,
after Ellis and other officers came to the apartment searching for suspects in
an attempted robbery.

Attorneys Joanne Lynch and Teresa Whitaker presented the motion for the change
of venue Friday in Madison Circuit Court, asserting that Sizemore will be
unable to receive a fair trial in Madison County. Prosecutors in the case will
now craft their response before Judge William Clouse will make a ruling,
Madison County Commonwealth's Attorney David Smith said.

The attorneys cited the vast and widespread media coverage of the case as a
reason for the request. In addition to local and state news outlets, national
media outlets including NBC, CBS, the Washington Post and the Daily Mail of
London all carried stories of Ellis' death, the motion states.

In addition, the attorneys state they hired an expert who conducted a survey of
Madison County and found nearly 2/3 of potential jurors in the county believe
Sizemore is guilty, and almost 1/2 of the potential jurors believe he should
receive the death penalty.

The community's response to Ellis' death also lends credence to the argument of
Sizemore being unable to receive a fair trial in Madison County, the attorney's
assert. Their motion cites several examples of the community's response,
including the naming of U.S. 25 after Ellis, numerous displays throughout the
community, and fundraisers held for his family.

Changes in venue are sometimes granted in cases where the judge determines
publicity of the case has made it likely jurors will be unable to remain
partial. But having a change of venue granted is rare, the Los Angeles Times
reported in a February 2015 story.

The story quotes Daniel Medwed, a professor of criminal law at Northeastern
School of Law in Boston.

"The general idea is that there is a strong presumption in keeping a trial
where the crime occurred," Medwed said.

Attorneys representing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who in 2013 planted bombs at the
finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 people and injuring hundreds,
tried unsuccessfully to get his trial moved out of the Boston area due to

Tsarnaev was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty.

However, trials involving state rather than federal charges are more easily
moved, the Los Angeles Times story states. One famous case in which a change of
venue was granted is the 1992 state trial of 4 Los Angeles police officers
charged in the 1991 beating of Rodney King. In that trial, jurors in nearby
Ventura County acquitted 3 of the 4 officers and deadlocked on the 4th.

Sizemore, 36, is charged with murder (police officer), 2 counts of attempted
murder for allegedly shooting at the officers who came to Ellis' aid,
1st-degree unlawful imprisonment for holding a 3rd person involved hostage as
Ellis searched an apartment for the suspect, 2 counts of being a convicted
felon in possession of a handgun; attempted 1st-degree robbery; and 2 counts of
being a 1st-degree persistent felony offender.

Ratliff faces charges of complicity to murder (police officer), 2 counts of
complicity to attempted murder (police officer) and complicity to unlawful

Their Madison County trial was scheduled for July 2018.

Another person in the case, who drove Sizemore to the location where the
attempted robbery allegedly occurred, was sentenced in August to 4 year on
charges of 1st-degree wanton endangerment, bail jumping and 2nd-degree
complicity to burglary.

Sizemore and Ratliff are scheduled to appear in court for their next status
hearings on Oct. 27.

(source: The Richmond Register)


Butler double murder suspect returns to court

A Butler County man accused of fatally shooting a retired minister and his wife
returned to court Thursday with a new defense team that has filed several
motions on his behalf.

Kevin Dye, 35, of Morgantown, appeared in Butler Circuit Court for a pretrial
conference in his case. He is charged with 2 counts of murder, convicted felon
in possession of a handgun and receiving stolen property (firearm).

Dye is accused of killing Kenneth Neafus, 71, and his wife, Dorothy, 70.

Kenneth Neafus was a pastor at Little Muddy Cumberland Presbyterian Church
before retiring several years ago.

The couple were found dead Aug. 9, 2016, at their Richland Church Road home.

If convicted as charged, Dye could face the death penalty.

Dye is being represented by Bowling Green attorneys Currie and Wesley Milliken,
who Dye's family retained in place of capital trial public defenders from the
Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

Since becoming Dye's attorneys last month, the Millikens have filed motions to
move the case out of Butler County, remove the death penalty as a possible
punishment and have separate juries determine Dye's guilt or innocence and to
determine his punishment, if he is found guilty.

Special Judge Janet Crocker, who was appointed to preside over the case after
Butler Circuit Judge Tim Coleman recused himself, did not rule on those motions
but granted a defense motion to have the Department of Public Advocacy continue
providing investigative services for Dye.

The change of venue motion argues that the Neafuses' standing in the community
and publicity of the case through news coverage prevents Dye from receiving
fair trial in Butler or any adjoining counties.

"The Neafuses had had a profound impact on numerous people's lives considering
all of the churches Mr. Neafus had pastored and all of the counseling and
community involvement he and his wife had been ... involved in," the motion
said. "It will be virtually impossible to find anyone in Butler County,
Kentucky, that had not heard about, read about and/or formed an opinion about
this case in light of all the circumstances surrounding it."

4 people who live, work or attend church in Butler County have given affidavits
supporting the Millikens' bid to move the trial, court records show.

In the motion to remove the death penalty as an option, Dye's attorneys argue
that Kentucky's death penalty statute is unconstitutional and that Dye, who his
attorneys say in court filings "has been profoundly deaf since birth,"
qualifies as being intellectually disabled, which would make the death penalty
cruel and unusual punishment to impose against him.

A transcriptionist from the state Administrative Office of the Courts has been
present at court hearings to enable Dye to follow the proceedings, allowing him
to read typed transcripts of each hearing.

Dye's defense team also wants a separate jury empaneled for the penalty phase
of the case if Dye is convicted.

To support their motion, the attorneys cite academic studies that conclude that
a substantial proportion of Kentucky capital jurors reach a decision on
punishment before hearing evidence about aggravating and mitigating factors
during the penalty phase.

(source: Bowling Green Daily News)


Alleged murderer in court: I killed that man

The man accused in the August stabbing death of a Norfolk man at an apartment
complex must undergo a competency evaluation before his case can continue.

Rodolfo Castaneda-Morejon, 48, appeared in Madison County District Court here
for arraignment Friday afternoon with his court-appointed interpreter Izabel
Chavez and Madison County Public Defender Matthew Headley.

During court proceedings, Castenada-Morejon said through Chavez, "I killed that
man because of a ..." and was then cut off by Headley.

The unexpected outburst came after Judge Mark Johnson heard a request from
Headley that his client have a competency evaluation done - based on Headley's
previous conversations with Castaneda-Morejon.

Johnson asked the defendant if he understood what Headley had requested. That's
when Castaneda-Morejon began to speak in open court against his attorney's

Castaneda-Morejon has been charged with 1st-degree murder, a Class 1 or 1A
felony. If he is found guilty, the charge carries a potential penalty of either
life imprisonment or the death penalty. The death penalty would have to be
sought by the prosecuting attorney if the crime was found to have been
aggravated in nature.

He was also charged with use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, which
carries a possible sentence of 1-50 years in prison.

The charges stem from an incident in August in which Yosvanis Velazquez-Gomez,
39, was stabbed to death at his apartment building at 904 Syracuse Ave. in
Norfolk. Velazquez-Gomez was found lying on the ground behind the building.

Court records indicate Castaneda-Morejon, who turned himself into police
shortly after the stabbing, was found with blood on his arm and clothing.

A subsequent search of Castaneda-Morejon's apartment he shared with his
girlfriend - located in the same building as the victim's apartment - turned up
a large knife inside a sheath. The blade of the knife was found to have a
significant amount of dried blood on it.

In court Friday, Johnson did order a competency evaluation be administered to
Castaneda-Morejon before any further hearings take place. The psychologist
administering the test will take a look at multiple factors, Johnson said.

The evaluation will be used to determine if the defendant understands he's in
an court of law charged with a criminal offense; if he realizes there's a judge
on the bench; if he understands there is a prosecutor present who will try to
convict him of a criminal charge and that there is a lawyer to defend him; if
he has minimum contact with reality; and if he has the minimum intelligence
required to grasp the matter at hand, as well as many other factors.

"Arraignment will be continued until such time the competency evaluation will
be completed and the court makes a determination after receiving such report
whether or not Mr. Castaneda-Morejon has the mental ability to move forward on
the charges," Johnson said.

(source: Norfolk Daily News)


Questions about alternate juror's conduct delay sentencing for man convicted of
murdering Newport retiree

Sentencing for a man convicted of killing a 77-year-old Newport Beach retiree
in 1981 has been delayed until Nov. 17 after allegations surfaced that an
alternate juror discussed details of the case at a nail salon.

An Orange County Superior Court jury in May found James Andrew Melton, 65, of
Los Angeles guilty of 1st-degree murder for seducing and strangling Anthony
DeSousa in what prosecutors contended was a plot to steal from him.

Melton was expected to be sentenced Sept. 15. He could face life in prison
without possibility of parole.

However, Judge Gregg Prickett delayed the sentencing after a court clerk
reported overhearing 1 of the 4 alternate jurors discussing the case mid-trial
in May while getting her nails done at a Fountain Valley salon, said Senior
Deputy District Attorney Stephen McGreevy.

McGreevy declined to disclose specifics of what the clerk reportedly overheard.

Jurors are prohibited from discussing a case with anyone until the trial is
over. They also are not permitted to discuss the case with other jurors until
deliberations begin.

1 of the 2 female alternate jurors is expected to appear before Prickett on
Sept. 29 to discuss whether she spoke about the case.

The hearing is an effort by the court to ensure that Melton received a fair
trial. Prickett will have the woman relay what information, if any, she
discussed with other jurors. She was not present for the deliberations.

The other female alternate appeared in court Sept. 15 to discuss whether she
had spoken about the case during the trial. She said she did not recall doing
so, McGreevy said.

"I do believe Mr. Melton received his day in court and a fair trial," McGreevy

Melton's defense attorney, Denise Gragg, could not immediately be reached for
comment Thursday.

The issue of possible juror misconduct isn't the 1st speed bump in the case,
which spans 3 decades.

In 1982, a jury convicted Melton and sentenced him to death for the killing. He
was awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison when a federal judge threw
out his conviction in 2007.

U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi ruled Melton was too heavily medicated on
psychiatric drugs during his trial to understand the proceedings or participate
in his defense.

After a new trial was ordered, the Orange County district attorney's office
decided not to seek the death penalty.

In the 2014 retrial, a jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of convicting Melton of

His 3rd trial began May 1.

(source: Los Angeles Times)


Feds indict Four Corner Hustlers for 6 murders, sweeping conspiracy

Federal prosecutors announced a sweeping racketeering indictment against a
Chicago street gang late Thursday afternoon, tying 9 Four Corner Hustlers to a
decades-long conspiracy that led to the murders of 6 people.

Labar "Bro Man" Spann is accused of participating in all 6 slayings, including
the June 2003 murder of Latin Kings gangster Rudy "Kato" Rangel, whose death
inspired the track "A 'Yo Kato" by rapper DMX.

Some of the defendants named in the indictment - including Spann - could face
the death penalty. 11 have been indicted in all, with 2 being charged in an
extortion conspiracy. The 22-page document was handed down by a grand jury last
week but not unsealed until several of the defendants could be arrested and
brought to court.

Among those charged are Sammie "Sam Bug" Booker, Tremayne "Scarface" Thompson,
Juhwun Foster, Marchello "Chello" Devine, Rontrell "Mane Mane" Turnipseed,
Keith "Lil' Keith" Chatman, Stevon "Tito" Sims, Deandre "12" Spann, Mikal Jones
and Antonio "Lil' Chello" Devine.

The murders alleged in the indictment took place in 2000 and 2003. The victims,
in addition to Rangel, are Carlos Caldwell, Maximillion McDaniel, Levar Smith,
George King and Willie Woods.

The feds say the Four Corner Hustlers also spent decades - from the mid-1990s
until this year - committing robberies, extortion and batteries. They allegedly
dealt drugs, robbed rivals and used violence and intimidation to stop victims
and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement.

The gang used police scanners to avoid detection and even outfitted its members
with a security detail, the feds say. They allegedly conducted surveillance of
their victims and used rental cars to cover their tracks.

The gang operated in West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park on the West Side, and
in the former LeClaire Courts public housing development on the Southwest Side.

Spann has previously been acquitted of Rangel's murder and is already facing
serious time in federal prison. He pleaded guilty in June to a federal weapons
charge after shooting a gun at a west suburban firing range and then bragging
about it on Instagram.

Spann has a string of felony convictions dating back to 1996 that meant he
wasn't lawfully allowed to handle the weapon.

"Y'all know I had to go first just to show my b - how this sh- work lmao I do
this shis," Spann wrote in one Instagram caption.

Spann also pleaded guilty to 3 obstruction of justice charges for persuading 1
of his companions, Ladonah Hampton, to tell a federal grand jury that Spann
never fired the gun, even though she earlier told authorities he had.

Spann faces up to 70 years in prison for that case alone. His sentencing has
been set for Oct. 4.

(source: Chicago Sun-Times)

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