Bush sentenced to life following conviction for 2018 murder of J.J. Mount

Published 11:00 am Friday, March 31, 2023

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Following a January conviction for murder, Christopher Bradley Bush was sentenced this week to life in prison.

JJ Mount

Bush, 48, of McKenzie, was convicted for his role in the 2018 murder of Joshua James “J.J.” Mount at Hayslette’s Bridge near the Butler County line.

Bush and three others were charged following a 911 dispatch on August 3, 2018, when deputies responded to the Hayslette’s Bridge area where they located Mount’s body that had been dragged into a nearby wood line.

Also charged in the case were Joseph Vernon Armstrong, 77; Tammy Armstrong Bush, 40; and Jonathon Alan Bush, 34, all of McKenzie.  Tammy is the daughter of Vernon Armstrong, and the wife of Jonathon.  Bradley is the former spouse of Vernon’s other daughter, Jessica Bush. Jessica Bush was dating JJ Mount at the time of his murder.

District Attorney Walt Merrell and Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens prosecuted the cases.

“Bradley Bush’s conviction and sentencing brings long-awaited closure to the family of J.J. Mount,” Merrell said. “This was the oldest murder case on our docket, and we are glad to see it finally come to a conclusion.”

According to statements from defendants and witnesses, approximately two weeks prior to Mount’s murder, Jessica Bush and Mount were accused of stealing Armstrong’s Corvette, and Bradley Bush’s welding truck.  The truck was later located in Lowndes County and had been set on fire. The Corvette was located in McKenzie and had been wrecked and abandoned. Both Armstrong and Bradley Bush had filed theft reports and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office had signed warrants for the arrests of Jessica Bush and Mount. Butler County Investigator Robert Fulton testified at trial that when he notified Bradley Bush of the recovery and destruction of his truck, Bradley told him, “You better hope you find [him] before I do, because it won’t be good for him.”

Tammy Bush gave multiple interviews to police during the course of the investigation.  Tammy Bush said that, earlier in the day, she learned her sister, Jessica, and JJ Mount were together and their vehicle, a Ford Bronco, was stuck in the mud at Hayslette’s Bridge. Tammy requested her mother, Jerry Armstrong, and her niece, Emily Bush, travel with her to Hayslette’s Bridge to find Jessica. Jerry and Emily declined. Emily then called her father, Bradley Bush, and arranged for him to meet Tammy. Thereafter, Tammy and Bradley met at a gas station near McKenzie, got into Tammy’s GMC Yukon, and traveled to the Hayslette’s Bridge area looking for JJ and Jessica.

In the meantime, Armstrong learned Tammy and Bradley were attempting to locate Mount and Jessica in the Hayslette’s Bridge area. Armstrong requested Jonathon ride with him to the bridge to do the same.  Armstrong said he wanted to find his daughter and get his Corvette keys. Once Jonathon and Armstrong arrived at Hayslette’s Bridge, Armstrong exited Jonathon’s truck and declared he was staying to await Jessica and Mount’s return.  Armstrong was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun at the time.

Bradley Bush told police that he had a shotgun and a .380 pistol in his truck, which he took with him when he rode with Tammy to Hayslette’s Bridge.  After the two rode around in that area for some time, and after briefly meeting with Jonathon and Armstrong at the bridge, Tammy and Bradley drove back to Tammy and Jonathon’s residence in McKenzie. Tammy admitted she allowed Bradley into her gun safe to retrieve a scoped .243 hunting rifle, which belonged to Jonathon. They also swapped vehicles to Tammy’s Nissan Maxima, because they were concerned that JJ and Jessica would be looking for them in Tammy’s Yukon.

Tammy and Bradley left her residence and returned to the Hayslette’s Bridge area. As the two traveled toward the bridge, they encountered Jonathon exiting from the woods. Jonathon had concealed his truck in the woods, and rode from that point to Hayslette’s Bridge with Tammy and Bradley. Once the three arrived at the bridge, Bradley exited the vehicle with three firearms — a shotgun, a .243 rifle, and his .380 pistol. Both Bradley Bush and Armstrong took up positions in the wood line north of Hayslette’s Bridge, and waited for Jessica’s and Mount’s return to the Bronco.

Mount returned to the area sometime in the early afternoon with two friends, Jerry “Bo” Ziglar and his brother, Justin Ziglar. The Ziglars lived near the area and Mount had walked to Bo’s residence to request help. As Mount and the Ziglars attempted to hook up to the Bronco, gunfire erupted. Both Ziglars testified that Armstrong emerged from the wood line near them holding a shotgun, and then Bradley Bush emerge from the wood line 30-40 yards eastward holding a rifle. Justin Ziglar recounted JJ Mount running away from the two vehicles and out of their immediate line of sight. Mount unknowingly ran into Bradley Bush’s line of sight, and was shot in the head through the scope of the .243 rifle, dying immediately.

The Ziglar brothers were held at gunpoint, with their hands in the air, as Armstrong and Bradley Bush discussed who had been shot, and whether the Ziglars should also be killed to avoid their future testimony against Bradley Bush.  Armstrong told police, and later testified, that Bradley wanted to kill the Ziglars because they were witnesses, and Armstrong said he talked Bradley out of the additional murders. According to both Ziglar brothers, Bradley Bush told them, “My name is Bradley Bush, and if you tell anyone what happened here, I’ll hunt you down and kill you and your family.”

After Mount was shot, Bradley drug Mount’s body by his feet from the open area where he was killed to a nearby wood line. Armstrong admitted he pulled his Corvette keys from Mount’s shorts’ pockets after he was dead.  At trial, Armstrong testified that he took the keys because he wanted to hear his car run one more time.

Bradley and Armstrong then walked south of Hayslette’s Bridge and hid the two shotguns and the rifle by a fallen tree, under some leaves and brush.  Armstrong, unable to keep up with Bradley, waited for his ride while Bradley hid in the woods until well past dark. Tammy and Jonathon Bush returned to Hayslette’s Bridge after receiving word Mount had been killed, and Armstrong got into the vehicle with them. As they attempted to leave the area, deputies stopped them and they were immediately detained.

Bradley Bush was not located until approximately 3 a.m. the following morning, at his mother’s home in McKenzie.  Deputies learned of his whereabouts after having Tammy make a controlled call to him. Once Bradley answered the phone, his first words to Tammy were, “How much shit are we in?” Bradley declined to come to the Sheriff’s Office for any interview, and instead was taken into custody at his mother’s home.

Trial testimony corroborated interviews given by defendants and witnesses during the investigation, according to the district attorney’s office. Covington County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cody Holmes testified that he observed a blood pool and drag marks in the dirt parking area near the bridge. Holmes followed the drag marks to Mount’s body, about 20 yards away from the blood pool. Holmes recalled the bullet entry wound to Mount’s right temple and verified that he checked for signs of life, but Mount was deceased.

Former CCSO Investigator, now employed with the State Bureau of Investigation, David Hamby testified to interviewing Bradley Bush after he was finally taken into custody, and that interview was also played for the jury.  Bradley claimed that he shot Mount for fear that Mount would harm Armstrong. Armstrong also testified at Bradley’s trial, indicating he and Bradley had waited in the woods at Hayslette’s Bridge for Mount and Jessica Bush to return to the area. According to Armstrong’s testimony, once Mount and the Ziglar brothers arrived on scene, he (Armstrong) exited the wood line and fired one shot into the air to command the group’s attention. At that time, Mount, who was unarmed, ran away and Bradley Bush shot him.

Justin Ziglar testified at trial that he and his brother only learned for certain of Mount’s death when Bradley Bush approached them and said, “I shot him clean through the head.” The Ziglars view of Mount’s body was obstructed by shrubbery and a small rise in the landscape. After Bradley’s threats to kill the Ziglars and their families, the Ziglars were released and called 911 as soon as possible as they drove away.

Under Alabama law, any accomplice to a crime is guilty the same as the person primarily responsible for the crime. The four were also charged with murder. Recognizing varying levels of culpability, the cases were disposed of accordingly.

“There has been much community talk about how ‘unfair’ these defendants have been treated, or about how the court system has ruined their lives,” Merrell said. “I suppose the Bush family is entirely oblivious to the aftermath their actions created for the Mount family, nor do they care. When you lie in wait to kill someone, you should expect there to be consequences.”

Vernon Armstrong pled guilty in August 2022 to murder and was sentenced to 30 years. He is currently incarcerated at Kilby Correctional Facility.  Merrell noted that Armstrong’s age factored into the plea agreement.  “He is 77 years old.  This may well be a life sentence for him.”

Tammy Bush also pled guilty in August 2022 to murder and was sentenced to 10 years. Tammy Bush applied for probation at the time of her plea and a hearing was held Jan. 10, 2023.  Her request for probation or any split sentence was denied by the court. She is incarcerated in the Covington County Jail, awaiting transport to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Jonathon Bush pled guilty on Jan. 17, 2023 to conspiracy to commit first degree assault and was sentenced to five years.  He was granted probation.  “[Jonathon] had little to no understanding of what had been planned. Nor did he have much involvement in the crime itself.  So, we felt that giving him the lesser sentence was appropriate,” Merrell said.

Bradley Bush’s life sentence was passed down Tuesday by Circuit Judge Charles “Lex” Short.  Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens requested Short sentence Bush under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act.  Bush had two prior felony convictions — one for first degree assault, which followed his shooting into a McKenzie residence before entering the residence and shooting the victim twice. The second conviction was for possession of ecstasy in Bibb County, Georgia. Since his January conviction, Bush has also been charged with third degree assault for his role in assaulting another inmate at the Covington County Jail.  Bush was also ordered by the court to pay restitution to Mount’s family for cremation expenses.

Bush was represented by Montgomery attorney Wesley Pitters, and Brewton attorneys, Earnest White and Cierra White.

“There were so many law enforcement officers, forensic scientists, and key witnesses that gave us background information that allowed us to pull this case together,” Stephens said. “It takes many moving parts working in rhythm to bring cases to a successful prosecution.  We wish to express our thanks to each person who played a role in the investigation or trial, no matter how large or small, to the jury, and to the victim’s family for believing in how we work and that we would, in fact, get here, despite the delays. It is a team effort, and I will always believe ours is one of the best,” said Stephens.

“For the last nearly five years, we have heard time and time again how these four defendants are upstanding citizens and meant no harm,” Merrell said. “That simply is not — cannot — be true when you orchestrate a murder, and lie in wait for someone. Neither our office nor Mount’s family has ever contended that JJ was a saint.  Rather, he was an addict, deep in the throes of addiction. He and Jessica both made bad decisions, but they weren’t decisions that warranted Mount’s murder. Mount made those bad decisions together with Jessica, but the Bush family didn’t seek to coordinate her execution. Fact is, though, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’  We can’t allow our society to reduce itself down to the point that the Bushes reduced themselves to.  We are better than that, I pray.  Justice has been served.  But justice won’t bring JJ Mount back to his son or his family.”