Man convicted of armed robbery
After four hours of deliberation, a Covington County Circuit Court jury returned a guilty verdict against 19-year-old Barth Henri Williams in connection with the May 28, 2002 armed robbery of the Super C Texaco on Highway 331 in Opp.
Williams, who had moved to Opp from Enterprise prior to the robbery, was convicted of robbery in the first degree after a two-day trial.
According to a release from the Covington County District Attorney's Office, affidavits filed by police officers after Williams was charged state that Williams robbed the store while wearing a Halloween mask and carrying a gun.
He cursed the cashier and demanded money while pointing a handgun at her.
After taking approximately $550 in cash, Williams ran from the store in the direction of Kellum Street. Information received from witnesses led police to where Williams had hidden the empty money bag, an arm splint worn during the robbery and the mask on nearby Gavin Street.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Gambril, who represented the state during the trial, stated some of the strongest evidence against Williams was the DNA found in his mask.
"The mask was sent to forensic scientists who were able to analyze DNA found in the saliva inside the mask," said Gambril. "The DNA found in the mask matched the defendant's DNA profile."
Gambril said information received from persons who saw Williams before and after the robbery and from persons who were in the area at the time of the robbery led to Williams as a suspect, but that it was additional information received from the cashier that led to Williams' ultimate arrest.
"Several weeks after the robbery, Williams was brazen enough to return to the scene of the crime," said Gambril. "While there, the cashier, who had no idea he was even a suspect, overheard his voice and immediately recognized it from the night of the crime. When police reviewed the store security video of the day (of the incident), they saw Barth Williams and took out a warrant for his arrest."
Gambril said the DNA report was not received until a few weeks before the trial and that it only confirmed what was already suspected.
He commended the Opp Police Department and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for the effort the agencies put into the case.
"The more that I do this job, the more impressed that I am with the professionalism of our law enforcement and our forensic scientists," said Gambril. "They are all underpaid, understaffed and under appreciated, but they still always seem to find the bad guy."
Gambril also said the cashier showed tremendous courage for her part in Williams' conviction.
"This young lady suffered through an extremely terrifying experience, yet was able to assist the police with their work and hold her head up firmly during the trial," said Gambril. "It takes an exceptional person to be able to continue to show up to work after going through something like that."
Gambril also expressed credit for the jury.
"The jury sat through a fairly long trial and had a lot of things to sort through," said Gambril. "They deliberated long and hard and returned a verdict that was obviously carefully considered."
Williams will be sentenced on August 12 of this year and Gambril said the minimum sentence is 20 years due to Alabama's firearms enhancement law.
"Because of the inherent danger, whenever someone commits a Class A felony while armed with a deadly weapon, the minimum punishment is increased to 20 years," said Gambril. "The maximum sentence is life."