4 guilty verdicts this week

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 5, 2011

The district attorney’s office got three guilty verdicts and settled the oldest active case on the docket this week. Covington County jurors also found a fourth person guilty in a fraud case tried by the attorney general this week.

On Tuesday, a Covington County jury found Michael Rex Holmes guilty of possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. The case stemmed from a Drug Task Force investigation and 2004 indictments.

“It was the oldest active case on the docket,” District Attorney Walt Merrell said, adding there are older inactive cases against people who have not shown up for court.

“While this seems like a simple possession case, Mr. Holmes showed up and presented himself as a person who suffered from severe physical problems.

Merrell praised chief assistant district attorney Grace Jeter, who tried the case.

“It was an extremely difficult case to try,” he said. “She overcame the sympathetic value of the case and got a conviction.”

On Thursday, a jury found Richard Wells guilty of a lesser included offense in an attempted kidnapping case.

Wells was charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary in a 2010 Opp case. He was found not guilty of burglary and guilty of the lesser included offense of assault third in the kidnapping charge.

Merrell said he was satisfied that justice was served and praised the three children who testified.

“Our case was three children who are 12 or 13 years old,” Merrell said. “For them to get on that stand took all the guts they had. I’m proud of them for being so brave.��

A third case was set to go before a jury Thursday afternoon. But after the jury was seated, Dustin Kelsey, who was charged with drug-related offenses, decided not to go forward and changed his plea to guilty.

“For the last year, I’ve said that the key to having a settlement that finds justice is for the defense to have a legitimate fear you will try the case against him,” Merrell said. “This case proves that our plan is working and it will only continue to work in the people’s favor.”

Star-News archives indicate Wells allegedly attempted to kidnap the child from the Lunsford Circle home last January

It was the first jury term since Walt Merrell took office in January.

In March, the office will hold its grand jury session, and in April could possibly try one of the five murder cases on the docket.