Trials expected to begin soon

Published 12:04 am Friday, February 18, 2011

Jurors could soon hear the case against the Opp man accused of attempting to abduct a 12-year-old girl from an Opp trailer park last year, as well as the case against the two Florala men accused of taping customers while they tanned at Florala video store.

District Attorney Walt Merrell said the two cases will kick off “trial week,” set for Feb. 28. It will start with the case against Richard Wells, followed by the case against Tim Townsend and Ricardo Perez.

Star-News archives indicate Wells allegedly attempted to kidnap the child from the Lunsford Circle home last January and that Townsend and Perez allegedly videoed customers as they undressed to tan at Westside Video in Florala.

Wells was charged with second-degree burglary and second-degree attempted kidnapping. Townsend and Perez face two counts of possession of a controlled substance, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of criminal surveillance.

Merrell said the docket includes other cases.

“We’re also concentrating on clearing any of the older cases we have – for example, this docket includes a drug possession case from 2004,” Merrell said.

In March, the office will hold its grand jury session, and April could bring the first murder cases of the new DA’s term.

“We’re hoping to try the Copeland murder,” he said. “We wanted to do it in February, but it didn’t work out.”

Bobby Wayne Copeland is accused in the July 2009 shooting death of his wife, Dorothy.

Merrell said he intends to follow that case with the capital murder case against Michael Dale Barb-aree and the murder case against David Whiltshire.

Barbaree, 28, is charged with murdering 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.

Whiltshire is charged with two counts of murder in a March 2007 traffic accident that claimed the lives of two women, one of whom was a passenger in his vehicle. Merrell said the Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the case.

“It’s going to be very busy around here,” Merrell said.