April 20, 2017 11:08:58 AM
Isabelle Altman - [email protected]
A few days after 19-year-old William Stallings was shot and killed in Lowndes County in 2011, Alabama resident Lacee Cox's boyfriend Joshua Taylor told her he shot the New Hope teen.
That's what Cox told a jury in Lowndes County Circuit Court Wednesday during Taylor's capital murder trial. If convicted, Taylor faces the death penalty or life in prison.
Taylor, 29, of Reform, Alabama, is accused of breaking into a home on Harrison Road early the morning of May 20, 2011, and shooting Stallings while the victim was asleep on a couch. Taylor and four other men who were allegedly with him during the break-in were all arrested for the crime later that month after Cox talked to investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office. At the time, investigators had several other men unconnected with Taylor in custody for the shooting.
"I loved him," Cox said of Taylor during her testimony Wednesday. "And I knew it was over, but you also have three people that was locked up and you also have someone who is deceased because of a decision that (Taylor) made."
Cox was one of seven witnesses during the prosecution's case Wednesday, including 31-year-old Brandon Brown, one of four other people with Taylor the night of the murder. The state will continue calling witnesses today.
Brown testified he and three of his friends went with Taylor to the Harrison Road house at about midnight or 1 a.m. on May 20, 2011. He said Taylor and another of the men, Cameron Merriweather, entered the house to "get some drugs" while the other three remained in the car. After a few minutes, those three got out of the car to urinate on the side of the road when they heard a gunshot. Brown said he ran into the house where he saw Taylor "get the gun" from Merriweather. Brown said he then left the house, but as he approached the car, he heard another gunshot.
Shortly after that, Merriweather and Taylor came running out of the house. Taylor appeared nervous, Brown testified.
"He said, 'I shot a guy. I shot a guy,'" Brown said.
Also taking the stand was former LCSO investigator Eli Perrigen, the lead investigator for Stallings' murder who was interrogating Taylor when he confessed to the murder.
District Attorney Scott Colom and Assistant District Attorney Armstrong Walters presented video of the interrogation. Near the end of the video -- which was roughly 90 minutes -- Taylor, who appears to be sobbing, confesses to shooting Stallings while trying to wake him up.
Confession under duress?
But defense attorney William Stennett suggested Taylor's confession came under duress.
"I counted 46 times (in the video) where this gentleman said, 'I didn't do it,'" Stennett said to Perrigen during the former investigator's testimony. "...Did it occur you that he said something just to get out of there?"
Both Stennett and fellow defense attorney Donna Smith pointed out that while the state has multiple witnesses, investigators could not pin much physical evidence on Taylor -- there was no DNA evidence from Taylor at the scene, items in the home were never dusted for fingerprints and investigators never discovered the alleged gun used to kill Stallings despite Taylor leading investigators to the Alabama woods where he said he'd discarded it after the shooting.
Because of publicity surrounding the murder, a jury from Marshall County is hearing the case, which Colom said is fairly common practice in high-profile murder investigations.
Also arrested for capital murder with Taylor were Brown; Merriweather, 30; Johnny Brock, Jr., 28; and Richard Lee, 25. All but Merriweather were indicted on accessory after the fact. Merriweather still faces a capital murder.
None of the other suspects have gone to trial.