Murder prelim under way

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Testimony heard Tuesday showed police intentionally mislead the media to help track down the man who murdered a Butler County man in September, and they used jailhouse information to locate the suspected murder weapon.

Testimony also showed the shooting could be the result of a “drug deal gone wrong.”

That was only a portion of several key investigational pieces revealed during the preliminary hearing in the capital murder case against Shelton L. Foster.

Foster was charged after a hunter found 48-year-old Donnie L. Bone’s body under a tarp on property adjacent to Foster’s business, Cobra & Mystery LLC, on Airport Road. Investigators also found Bone’s abandoned truck at the business site. Bone was found shot in the back of the head, Sheriff Dennis Meeks said previously, but that wasn’t exactly the case.

Wesley Snodgrass, the case’s lead investigator with Covington County Sheriff’s Office, said on the stand that Foster is claiming self-defense in shooting.

“Mr. Foster first denied shooting Mr. Bone, but then he admitted that they were both in the cab of the truck in the field and got into a verbal altercation,” Snodgrass said. “He said the victim hit him in the shoulder; he struck back; but Mr. Bone got out of the vehicle and that’s when he saw the gun in Mr. Bone’s back pocket.

“That’s when (Foster) said he took his gun, placed it to the base of (Bone’s) neck, where the neck meets the skull, and shot him one time,” Snodgrass said. “He never said Mr. Bone pulled a gun.”

District Attorney Walt Merrell said that was contrary to what media reports said.

“That’s a key detail that only the killer would know,” Merrell said. “To recap, (Foster) admitted he shot the victim and that it might be self-defense, but he never said the victim pointed the gun at him or threatened to kill. He said that he was only scared of him and said that he knew when he got out of the truck, things were going to go bad. So, he beat (Bone) to the punch and shot him.”

Foster said he then threw the gun into a creek as he drove Bone’s vehicle back to his home, Snodgrass said. Autopsy reports showed Bone was killed with a .22-caliber magnum bullet.

Snodgrass said while Foster was in jail he concocted an alibi scheme with his cellmate, who then revealed the information to police. Snodgrass said in exchange for bail money, the inmate was to memorize an alibi that placed two men inside a truck with Mississippi tags near the scene that day. The inmate was then to recruit a preacher, or someone portraying a preacher, to give the same story.

To corroborate the inmate’s story, he produced a handwritten note from Foster outlining his specific instructions, Snodgrass said.

“(The inmate) was also supposed to get two pieces of evidence from Mr. Foster’s business – a .22 magnum pistol and a bottle of pills,” Snodgrass said. The items, instead, were recovered by police and are scheduled for forensic testing, he said.

The courtroom was filled with spectators – mostly representatives from Bone’s family – as District Judge Trippy McGuire listened to the case. Foster’s attorneys, Manish Patel and Chris Sledge, also filed a motion to reduce Foster’s bond; however it was denied. Foster will remain in the Covington County without bond until the case heads to trial, McGuire ordered.