“I do believe probable cause exists, and I am going to bind this case over to a grand jury,” St. Clair County District Court Judge Alan Furr said.
Furr made his ruling after Assistant District Attorney Carol Boone called two witnesses during the preliminary hearing for Jeffery “Wayne” Finney Jr., 30. Finney is charged with the murder of his cousin, Rickey “Shane” Williams, 34, of Riverside.
The state called the victim’s and suspect’s grandfather to the stand, Ronald Edward Stancil, who was one of three people at the residence on Sprayberry Road during the time of the alleged murder.
The state also called Riverside Police Chief Rick Oliver, who heads up the lead enforcement agency involved with the murder investigation.
Defense attorneys for Finney have alleged their client killed Williams in self-defense, and both men have mental issues, according to Tuesday’s court testimony.
But Stancil said his dead grandson, who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, was not a violent person.
“Shane’s never been violent,” Stancil said. “He did not have a violent nature.”
The grandfather testified Williams owned a small pocketknife.
Defense attorney Van Davis, who represents Finney, said it didn’t make any sense for their client to try to kill a man twice his size without a weapon. He asked Oliver if he had ever worked a case where a suspect murdered a victim who was twice his size without a weapon.
“No,” Oliver said.
When asked by Boone whether Oliver had ever worked a case where a murder victim was bigger than a suspect, he said, “Yes.”
Authorities believe Finney killed his cousin on the front porch of the grandparents’ home, where the victim was living with his son at the time.
Coroner Dennis Russell said shortly after the alleged murder that a preliminary autopsy report indicated the victim died from asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation and blunt force injuries.
At the time of the alleged murder, Stancil, his wife and a speech therapist was at the home, according to testimony, and nobody heard a fight or scuffle on the front porch of the home.
Stancil said Finney was acting strange, but he did not know why.
“I told my wife, ‘The boy ain’t acting right,’” Stancil testified Tuesday. “Something is going on.”
It wasn’t until later he saw Williams lying on the ground dead.
“I saw Shane lying in the field,” Stancil testified. “I checked him, but I knew there was no need to.”
The victim was unclothed, and authorities found some of Williams’ clothes in Finney’s abandoned vehicle.
The grandfather called police, and Finney fled the scene in his vehicle.
Finney’s vehicle was later recovered at the Clear Creek Marina in the Renfroe community of Talladega County.
Finney, who was armed with a .22 caliber pistol, was captured without incident in a wooded area adjacent to the Pell City Market Place shopping center, where Kmart is located. He had apparently hitched a ride from Talladega County back to Pell City.
After the preliminary hearing, defense attorneys asked Furr to reduce Finney’s $500,000 bond.
Furr said he set such a high bond because he agreed with the state that Finney posed a flight risk, and he was concerned that Finney would hurt himself.
Attorneys said numerous family supporters, neighbors and church members came to court in support of Finney, and said supporters believed Finney was not a threat to society or himself.
Defense attorneys said the bond was too high and asked that it be reduced.
“There is a Constitutional right to set a reasonable bond,” defense attorney Gibson Holladay said. “He’s entitled to a reasonable bond.”
Boone said the state opposed the reduction of bond for Finney and still considered him a flight risk and danger to society.
Furr reduced Finney’s bond to $250,000 Tuesday, but conditions of bond will remain in effect.
If released, the judge ordered that the suspect can not drink alcohol or 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.
Contact David Atchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.