Judge appointed to Lazenby murder case
by Emily McLain
TALLADEGA COUNTY — More than two years after his murder, the complex case of Blake Lazenby is inching closer to a resolution.

Six individuals, five men and one woman, have been arrested thus far in connection with the July 27, 2011 slaying of the prominent Talladega County attorney in his Sylacauga home.

Last month, retired Circuit Judge John E. Rochester was assigned to the case by a Supreme Court order. Talladega County Circuit Judges Julian King and Bo Hollingsworth recused themselves earlier this year, presumably because of their working relationship with Lazenby.

Rochester, a judge for 27 years at the time of his retirement in December 2010, was presiding judge for the 40th Alabama Circuit for Clay and Coosa counties, according to the Clay-Times Journal.

With 24 counts of capital murder and various other charges between them, four of the six defendants in the murder case have been indicted by a grand jury, and two are pending grand jury appearances, according to District Attorney Steve Giddens. No future court appearances are scheduled, though Giddens said a docket call could be set next week. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Presently, four of the suspects are in the Talladega County Jail. Ocie Lynch, 32, Charles Hendrix, 23, and Calvin Haynes, 32, all of Birmingham, are being held without bond on eight counts of capital murder each. Counts 1-4 are murder for hire, and counts 5-8 are murder during the commission of a burglary, according to jail records. Hendrix is also charged with first-degree theft of property for allegedly stealing Lazenby’s 2009 GMC Yukon. Teresa Taylor, 54, of Alexander City is also being held on $1 million bond for solicitation to commit murder and criminal conspiracy to commit murder.

Another suspect, Earnest Files Jr., 57, of Alexander City, is charged with the same counts as Taylor in Talladega County; however, he is currently in Tallapoosa County Jail on previous charges of second-degree unlawful possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, making a terrorist threat, and two counts of a felon in possession of a firearm.

A sixth suspect, Jeremy Lee Cade, 22 at the time of his arrest, of Birmingham was charged with first-degree theft of property and receiving stolen property. He bonded out of Talladega County Jail in November 2011.

Lynch, Hendrix, Haynes and Files have been indicted, while Taylor and Cade await a grand jury decision.

There is no timeline set for a trial, Giddens said, and it has not yet been decided if the accused will be tried together or separately.

“We have not made that decision,” he said. “We are taking preliminary matters as they come in each case and handling any motions or anything that has to be done in order for the case to be tried.”

Giddens said he could not comment whether any additional arrests in connection with Lazenby’s murder can be expected.

According to various public hearings, the killing was instigated by Files, who first approached Haynes about killing his girlfriend’s husband for $85,000 more than a year before the murder occurred.

“(Files) said the attorney’s wife was offering to pay the money to put a hit out on him,” Lynch said in a recorded statement. “Earnest got mad at the lawyer because he was dating this man’s wife, and he wanted to get the lawyer out of the way, because I guess he was interfering with them going together.”

Taylor allegedly represented herself as Lazenby’s wife during negotiations with the accused murderers.

At the time of his death, Lazenby was involved in a four-year divorce battle with Geanne Lazenby, his wife of 23 years. In March 2011, she reported Files to the Coosa County Sheriff’s Department for harassing communications and entering the premises of her Alexander City residence. No charges have been filed against Geanne Lazenby.

The evening of his murder, Blake Lazenby was reportedly last seen dropping off friends in Alexander City around 4 p.m. and then at a gas station on Alabama 21 in Sylacauga around 5:30 p.m.

Lynch said he, Hendrix and Cade waited for Lazenby to arrive at his Stonehill Road residence and then approached him as he entered the back door. Lazenby, 54, was subsequently shot and stabbed to death, though Lynch and Hendrix both claimed they were not the one to pull the trigger or reach for the knife. Both said Lazenby was still talking and asking for an ambulance after he was shot.

Hendrix and Cade then allegedly stole Lazenby’s Yukon and drove it to Tarrant, where they met Files and Haynes and set the vehicle on fire. Sylacauga police received word after Tarrant police discovered the burning vehicle around 7:30 p.m. and ran its registration number linking it to Lazenby.

The attorney was found in his dining room, wearing a suit and tie. He was pronounced dead at 11:45 p.m.

Lazenby practiced law for nearly 30 years in the area, sometimes representing the city of Sylacauga, and served as partner in the Talladega law firm Wooten, Thornton, Carpenter, O’Brien, Lazenby and Lawrence.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013