Cold case trial set for October

Published 7:03 pm Friday, May 16, 2014

Almost exactly five months from the day authorities announced the arrest of four suspects in a nearly 20-year-old murder, a trial date has been set for one of them.

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan set the trial date for Eugene Wallace Black for the October 2014 docket, tentatively scheduled to begin the week of Oct. 20, after a discovery hearing held Friday to discuss evidence.

Peter Bush, defense attorney for Black, said the five-month gap between his client’s arraignment and discovery was much longer than normal, adding he only received some of the evidence earlier that day.

“About 25 minutes before I left to drive here, I received discovery documents from the district attorney,” Bush said.

Bush also asked for a “speedy” trial date for Black, but is not representing any of the other suspects.

Black is accused in the 1994 killing of Heath convenience store owner James “Nibby” Barton. He was arrested in December, along with Sheila Walker Williams and Shelia Ellison Brooks. Days later, Sandra Ellison Lynn was also arrested for the murder. Brooks has since died in custody from natural causes.

Black was charged with murder, robbery I, burglary III, domestic violence/harassment and violation of parole. Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell said the parole violation was not related to the murder investigation and Black has since been remanded to Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery because of the infraction.

McKathan also laid out for Bush and Merrell exactly what materials the defense would be allowed to review, which included evidence related to the original murder investigation in 1994.

“This is an investigation into a crime for which my client is now charged,” Bush said. “So, I believe I’m entitled to the evidence.”

McKathan also declared discovery pending as attorney’s sort out what documents, testimony and items may be turned over to the defense.