Man accused of killing, dragging the body of his cousin claims self-defense
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — Attorneys representing a Riverside man accused of killing and dragging the body of his cousin with a vehicle said their client acted in self-defense.

“It’s a strange case,” Pell City defense attorney Van Davis told St. Clair County District Court Judge Alan Furr Tuesday morning.

Davis is one of two attorneys representing Jeffery Wayne Finney Jr., 30, who is charged with the murder of his cousin, Rickey Shane Williams, 34, of Riverside.

At Tuesday morning’s bond hearing for Finney, Davis said both the defendant and victim have or have had mental problems. He said his client is a paranoid schizophrenic, and the victim saw and talked to dead people.

He told the judge that authorities don’t have a motive for the killing, but there is a reason.

Davis asked the judge to set bond for his client, who remains in the St. Clair County Jail since his arrest in September.

He said the victim was twice the size of his client, and that his client moved the victim’s body with a vehicle because he didn’t want his grandmother to see the victim dead in front of the residence at the 2600 block of Sprayberry Road.

St. Clair County Coroner Dennis Russell said a preliminary autopsy report indicated the victim died from affixation due to ligature strangulation and blunt force injuries.

Davis said his client is not a flight risk and poses no danger to the community, saying the incident involved family relatives, and it was between two people with mental illnesses.

“He’s not a threat to society,” Davis said.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Boone said the state requests the court order Finney to remain in jail without bond, but if bond is granted, that the amount is high.

“We would prefer no bond, but if you do set a bond, we would ask it be set for at least $500,000,” Boone said.

She told the judge Finney is a flight risk and a danger to society.

She said Finney fled the scene and eluded police for 24 hours. He was tracked down by a state K9 dog unit and was found hiding in woods adjacent to the Pell City Market Place shopping center, where Kmart is located.

Boone said authorities suspect Finney was also involved in a gas drive-off in Talladega County. She said the suspect abandoned his vehicle at Clear Creek Marina in the Renfroe community, and hitched rides back to St. Clair County, where he was taken into custody.

Boone alleged that Finney not only has a mental issue, but a drug issue as well.

She said the suspect’s grandparents are afraid of him, and he may have keys to their residence, which have been missing since the alleged murder, along with the victim’s wallet.

Boone said Finney was armed with a gun when he was arrested, and authorities found other weapons inside his abandoned vehicle in Talladega County.

“The family is right in the middle, not by choice,” Davis told the judge. “It’s a terrible thing for the family to endure.”

He said Finney has no ties outside St. Clair County, thus his client is not a flight risk.

“He didn’t go more than 20 miles, and he came back,” Davis said.

Furr said he was concerned about a possible flight risk and the risk to others if Finney was released from jail.

“He did everything in his power to hide and avoid capture,” Furr said.

The judge set Finney’s bond at $500,000, and ordered that if released, the suspect is subject to random drug tests.

If released, the judge ordered that the suspect cannot drink alcohol and take drugs other than what is prescribed by his doctors. Finney is also required to stay away from all family members except his mother and father, who he lived with prior to the alleged murder.

“I do have concerns about the safety of others and to himself,” Furr said.

Davis said with such a high bond, it was like giving his client no bond because his family cannot afford it.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

© 2012