Covington County jury finds McKenzie man guilty in 2018 murder case

Published 4:05 pm Friday, January 27, 2023

A Covington County jury deliberated for less than 35 minutes on Thursday afternoon before pronouncing Christopher Bradley Bush, 48, of McKenzie, guilty of murder for the 2018 shooting death of Josha James Mount, also of Butler County.  Mount’s body was found in the edge of the woods near Hayslette’s Bridge in the north end of Covington County on August 3, 2018.

Josha James “JJ” Mount of Butler County. The body of Mount was discovered in northern Covington County in 2018. A jury this week found Christopher Bradley Bush of McKenzie guilty of murder in the case.

“I am very appreciative for the jury’s efforts.  I am also glad that, even though it took five years, the victim’s family finally has closure, and justice has been served,” said District Attorney Walt Merrell.

Merrell, together with Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens and Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, represented the State’s in the matter.  Bush was represented by Brewton attorneys Earnest White and Cierra White, and Montgomery attorney Wesley Pitters.

Court records indicate that, along with Bush, Tammy Armstrong Bush, Joseph Vernon Armstrong, and Jonathon Alan Bush were also arrested and charged in connection with Mount’s murder.  Those three defendants previously pled guilty for their roles in Mount’s death.  Bradley Bush was the sole remaining defendant when the matter proceeded to trial.

“It was an extremely strenuous week,” Merrell said. “We all came to the courthouse Monday fully prepared to try a different murder case.  The Court had set State of Alabama vs. Anthony James Siler first up Monday morning.  However, due to an unusual problem with Siler’s attorney, that case had to be continued at the last minute.  Bush was the second case set on the docket, and we had spent enough time preparing Bush as a back-up, that we simply shifted gears and kept moving forward.” 

Merrell began the trial by calling a series of deputies and investigators from the Covington County Sheriff’s Office.  Former Covington County Sheriff’s Deputy and current State Trooper Hunter Odom opened the State’s case.  As the first officer on the scene, Odom testified that the dispatcher sent him to the area because a 911 caller reported someone had been shot.  Odom said he was canvassing the tree line for a victim when a Nissan Maxima — occupied by Tammy Bush and Jonathon Bush (husband and wife) — pulled into the parking area below the bridge. Odom testified that soon after then-Sheriff Dennis Meeks pulled up as Vernon Armstrong (Tammy’s father) walked out of the woods.  All three were detained for questioning.

Odom also testified that he was then ordered to drive back towards Gantt to a residence to pick up the 911 caller. Odom added that the caller, Jerry “Bo” Ziglar, told Odom he was scared to go back to the scene for fear that the shooter would do harm to him or his family. Later, Ziglar and his brother both gave law enforcement eye-witness accounts of the day’s events.

Odom also testified that while continuing to canvass the area, he and other officers found two shotguns and a rifle partially buried in the woods in an area south of the bridge.

Next, CCSO Deputy Cody Holmes testified that he and other deputies found blood stains and drag marks in the dirt parking area. Holmes said they tracked those drag marks to a wooded area about 20 yards away. Entering the edge of the underbrush and briars, Holmes said he found the discarded body of Mount. Checking for a pulse and a heartbeat but finding none, Holmes said it was clear that he was deceased.  Holmes described the body as being covered in blood with an apparent “entry wound” to Mount’s right temple.

Investigators Jerry Fields and Joey Cato, both of the CCSO, also testified as to recovering various pieces of evidence, and then the State turned to the primary investigator of the case, David Hamby.  Among other things, Hamby testified to interviewing Bradley Bush during the course of the investigation.  A video recording of the interview was played for the jury.  Therein, Bush first spent some amount of time informing investigators that Mount had stolen Bush’s truck and made other accusations.  Later, he claimed to have gone to the bridge to “find” Jessica Bush, his ex-wife.  Finally, he stated that he shot Mount for fear that Mount was going to hurt Vernon Armstrong, who had also gone to the bridge with Bush.

Merrell also called Vernon Armstrong to the stand.  Armstrong, who previously pled guilty to his role in the murder, is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence.  “He was nearly 80 when he participated in this crime, and this will unfortunately result in him spending the rest of his life in prison,” Merrell noted regarding Armstrong. “But his actions led to another man’s death.”

Armstrong testified that he and Bush were dropped off at the bridge because they had received information that Mount and Jessica Bush, Armstrong’s daughter, had gotten their truck stuck in a mud hole at the bridge.  Armstrong testified that he was armed with a shotgun, and Bradley Bush was armed with a rifle and a shotgun.  He went on to say that he and Bush took up position inside the wood line on either flank of Mount’s stuck vehicle.  When Mount arrived with the Ziglar brothers, Armstrong testified that he came out of the woods and confronted the group, firing a shot into the air and demanding to know where his daughter was.  Armstrong said Mount “got out of dodge,” and Bush shot Mount as he was retreating.   

During his interview, Bush claimed Mount had turned back towards Armstrong and that Armstrong could not see Mount because of a large dirt pile that lay between them.  Bush claimed Mount kept grabbing at his pockets, “and I didn’t know if he had a gun or what.” Bush claimed he shot Mount to save Armstrong’s life.

ADA Nikki Stephens later called Bo Ziglar and his brother, Justin Ziglar, as eye witnesses. Both confirmed having gone to help Mount with the truck that was stuck in the mud. Both stated that, not long after they exited their vehicle, Armstrong emerged from the woods yelling and firing his gun into the air. Justin Ziglar testified that Mount ran up over the hill and tried to flee.  Not realizing that Mount had been shot (because they could not see him on the other side of the dirt pile), they came to learn of his death when Bush declared, “I shot him clean through the head.” 

Armstrong also confirmed in his testimony that Bush is the one who declared Mount dead. The Ziglars then testified, as did Armstrong, that Bush declared that he was going to kill both of the Ziglars as well, “because they are witnesses.” Only then did Armstrong intervene and said, “I am a witness, too, so what about me?  We ain’t killin’ them boys.” After a few argumentative exchanges between the two, Bush walked over to the Ziglars, both with their hands in the air, and said, “My name is Bradley Bush, and if you tell anyone what happened here, I’ll hunt you down and kill you and your family.” With that, Armstrong told the Ziglars to leave.

Armstrong testified that Bush then drug the body into the woods, and they both placed the guns in the woods and covered them with dirt and leaves.

Stephens also called now-retired Butler County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Robert Fulton to the stand.  Fulton testified that, on the same day of Mount’s murder, he notified Bradley Bush that his stolen truck had been found. It had been stripped down and burnt and was a total loss. Fulton testified that, in response to learning about the truck, Bush told Fulton, “You better hope you find that son-of-a-bitch before I do, because it won’t be good for him.”

A few hours later, Mount was dead at Bush’s hand.

In his closing arguments, Merrell reminded the jurors that both Armstrong and Bush agreed that there was no clear line of sight between Mount and Armstrong; that Mount did not have a gun; and that it was Bush and Armstrong who laid in wait to attack Mount. “It’s not reasonable to think this is a legitimate case of self-defense.”

The jury agreed, convicting Bush of intentional murder.

Circuit Court Judge Charles “Lex” Short presided over the matter.  He remanded Bush to custody and will set a sentencing hearing for some time in the future.  Merrell said that because of the circumstances of this crime, and because Bush has previously been convicted of first degree assault for shooting a man in Butler County, “I will ask the Judge to sentence Bradley Bush to spend the rest of his natural born life in prison. The man has now shot two people. It is reprehensible that someone valued their truck the same as another’s life. There is no place in civilized society for a man like this or his vigilante justice.”