Murder suspect dies

Published 12:25 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DA: Death won’t affect prosecution of case

The death of one of the four people charged in December with an almost 20-year-old murder will not affect the prosecution of the other three, District Attorney Walt Merrell said Tuesday.



Sheila Ellison Brooks, 57, died of natural causes this past weekend. She had been incarcerated in the Covington County Jail since being indicted for murder and robbery in December. She was being held on a $1 million bond.

Her arrest, as well as the arrests of Sheila Walker Williams, 52, charged with murder and robbery; Eugene Wallace Black, 55, charged with murder, robbery, burglary domestic violence/harassment and violation of parole; and Sandra Ellison Lynn, 51, charged with murder and robbery; came after a cold case task force spent months investigating the unsolved murder of Heath convenience store owner James “Nibby” Barton.

Merrell said Brooks’ death will not affect the strength of the evidence in the case, as she had not cooperated with investigators.

“From a practical aspect, it is one less body of evidence to present,” he said. “But that particular defendant, she had not cooperated in any way, so her passing does not affect the evidence we already had.”

Previously, Merrell told The Star-News that it was a partial confession given by one of the four suspects that helped solve the case some two decades later. He said the four suspects were “all friends” at the time of the crime.

Last June, the body of Walter Eugene Dean was exhumed. Then, Merrell told The Star-News that had he been alive, Dean also would’ve been considered a suspect in Barton’s murder.