Two Covington County defendants denied conviction review

Published 7:30 am Monday, February 20, 2023

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The Alabama Supreme Court denied two Covington County defendants’ petitions for writ of certiorari seeking the Supreme Court’s review of their convictions on Friday, Feb. 10.

In the first, James Benton Horn sought the high Court’s review following his conviction for the 2018 murder of Bruce Wayne Nelson. In the second, Zhanna Shaye Bolling sought review for her conviction for the 2019 murder of Charles Edward Foster.

In Horn’s case, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals previously upheld his conviction in August 2022. Horn was convicted in May 2021 for murder, second degree arson, and first degree criminal mischief. Evidence at trial showed that Horn shot Nelson twice, stabbed him four times, and then set his body, home, and vehicle on fire. Horn then left the scene and feigned surprise when contacted by law enforcement the following morning. He denied any involvement with the murder indicating he had seen two unknown black males suspiciously at Nelson’s home. In the execution of a search warrant at Horn’s home, officers recovered articles of Horn’s clothing with apparent blood stains. Those clothing items were submitted to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for DNA testing, and the blood was a match to Bruce Nelson.

Horn is now serving two consecutive life sentences, plus 20 years, within the Alabama Department of Corrections at Bibb County Correctional Facility.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Bolling’s conviction in an October 2022 Order and denied her application for re-hearing in December 2022. Her petition to the Supreme Court followed. A jury of her peers convicted Bolling in October 2021. The evidence at trial showed that Foster and Bolling were in a relationship. Foster and Bolling got into a struggle on April 5, 2019, and Bolling retrieved Foster’s rifle. After a brief struggle over the rifle, Foster was shot once in the shoulder and once in the wrist. Bolling then took control and shot Foster in the head. After undergoing multiple surgeries, including removal of his eye, Foster later succumbed to his injuries some six months later.

Bolling was sentenced to serve 30 years for the murder. She is currently incarcerated at Tutwiler Prison within the Alabama Department of Corrections. She is also currently serving time for second degree promoting prison contraband in a case preceding the murder.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, in an opinion also issued Friday, affirmed Charles C. McCrory’s 1985 conviction for the murder of his wife, Julie Bonds McCrory. The Court explained that McCrory’s latest appeals to overturn his conviction based upon new evidence did not meet the legal standard to entitle him to relief. This ruling came the day after McCrory was again denied parole. McCrory is serving a life sentence and will not be parole eligible again until 2028.

“I wish to again express my thanks to each of the investigators at all the departments and agencies who put these cases together and to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office for its work on the appeals. I hope these rulings bring some finality and closure to these cases for the families involved. Further, I am glad that each of these three defendants will continue to remain exactly where they should be: behind bars and away from the rest of society. Each of these rulings give myself and my staff renewed energy to keep going knowing justice endures,” Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell said.