Murder suspects indicted

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

At the conclusion of last week’s Covington County grand jury session, jurors returned indictments in the capital murder case against Michael Dale Barbaree, the murder case against Bobby Wayne Copeland and the attempted murder case against Frankie Louise Wilson.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks said Tuesday that both Barbaree and Copeland have been served with the results of the grand jury session.

Barbaree, 28, was originally charged in May with the capital murder of Travis Sasser, the attempted murder of his bedridden wife Merita Sasser, and arson. He is accused of beating Sasser, leaving him to die, and setting the house on fire with Mrs. Sasser trapped inside.

District Judge Frank “Trippy” McGuire bound the case against Barbaree over to the grand jury earlier this month after a day of testimony in a preliminary hearing.

Grand jurors also handed down a true bill on charges of first-degree escape and promoting prison contraband in a separate case against Barbaree. While being held after his arrest for murder, he allegedly made a weapon from his jail cell’s light fixture, which he planned to use to escape from the Covington County Jail. Correctional officers discovered the “weapon” and Barbaree’s plan during a routine search of the jail facility.

Barbaree and then-fellow inmates Oscar Roy Doster, Bobby O’Lee Phillips and Charles Meeks escaped from the Covington County jail in November 2002. Doster and Phillips were later found guilty of a murder committed during that escape.

Barbaree was on probation from the original escape charges at the time of Sasser’s murder.

Additionally, Barbaree’s indictment also included charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree theft of property and theft of lost property.

He remains in the Covington County Jail without bond on the bulk of his charges.

Capital murder is punishable by death.

In the Copeland murder case, grand jurors also indicted the 69-year-old North Creek resident on the charge of first-degree domestic violence.

Copeland is charged in July 3 shooting death of his wife, 63-year-old Dorothy Cravey Copeland.

Copeland has remained in the Covington County Jail under a $500,000 bond since his wife’s death. That bond has now been increased to $1 million.

“Officers, in cooperation with the district attorney’s office, worked diligently in these cases, and we look forward to the successful prosecution in both of these cases,” Meeks said.

Andalusia’s assistant police chief Mike Bowlan said law enforcement officers often rely on citizens who serve as jurors or grand jurors to make decisions on guilt or innocence or whether cases should go from one step to the next.

Grand jurors also returned a true bill in the case against Andalusia resident Frankie Louise Wilson.

Wilson, 44, is accused of kidnapping, robbing and beating her 65-year-old mother, Gracie Mae Wilson, nearly to death with a hammer in April. She is charged with attempted murder, first-degree robbery, third-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping and is currently being held on a $200,000 bond.