Back in 1987, a 29-year-old was found fatally shot, with five bullets fired from five different angles, along Highway 140 in Tuscaloosa County.
Law enforcement officers at first deemed it an "execution-style" homicide. But they had no idea who would have wanted to kill him.
However, 25 years later, Birmingham criminal defense lawyers understand the cops say they have their man. He's currently serving a 15-year sente4nce at a state correctional facility for attempted murder.
Interestingly, police haven't yet said what led them to this particular individual. What we do know is that cold cases, particularly those involving homicide or rape, can pose extensive challenges to prosecutors, especially when they are as old as this one.
For starters, many witnesses or would-be witnesses have either moved away, passed away or their memory has faded away. Witness testimony is often unreliable to begin with. If it's dark or the crime happened suddenly or there is alcohol or drugs involved, there's a strong likelihood that the witness didn't get a good look at the perpetrator. This is problematic for prosecutors even when a trial takes place a year or two after the incident, let alone 25 years later.
Another issue is the advances in technology that are available today weren't available 25 years ago. This is a double-edged sword. In some cases, it means that old DNA samples can be re-tested to potentially find a positive match and breathe new life into the case. However, you also have to consider that not only is DNA evidence not full-proof, but the DNA tests conducted on old or degraded samples may be called into question in court.
We don't know if these are issues that come into play in this particular case, but they are relevant for many cold case scenarios.
Here, according to media reports, detectives still aren't 100 percent sure of a motive. They know that the individual who was killed was described by family members to be somewhat of a drifter. He enjoyed partying and he primarily earned money working odd jobs. At the time of his death, he was working at a local lounge and also a hunting club.
That evening, he hitched a ride with friends at a truck stop over to the hunting club. Once there, he reportedly was kicked out after a fight broke out.
It's unclear exactly what happened from there, but one person near where the murder occurred reported seeing a suspicious vehicle sometime around 1 a.m. Another reported hearing a number of gunshots.
The next morning, police found the murder victim's bullet-riddled body.
About a month later, police arrested three other men for night hunting. At that time, officers seized a weapon they believed had been used in the killing. However, none of those three men were arrested for homicide.
Now, they've arrested a man who, earlier that year, had been charged with the slaying of his girlfriend. However, that case was dropped due to lack of evidence.
The case for which he is currently serving time is for allegedly firing into a vehicle where his sister was sitting.
Detectives have not indicated how they have linked the suspect to the homicide of the former hunting club employee.
Contact Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Arrest Made in 1987 Homicide Case, Oct. 31, 2012, Staff Report, The Tuscaloosa News