Update: 17-year-old arrested in Hurtsboro double homicide; warrants issued for two others

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 19, 2013 

Update (Wednesday, 5:49 p.m.): A 17-year-old has been charged with two counts of capital murder in connection with Monday night’s double homicide in Hurtsboro, Ala., according to the Russell County Sheriff’s Office.

Rashawn Ricks, of Bullock County, also faces charges of attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle in connection with a Macon County shooting earlier Monday evening.

The Sheriff’s office also issued warrants Wednesday afternoon for Dexter Saxton, 19, and Derrick Cliatt, 20. Both are wanted on two charges of capital murder each. Cliatt spoke with investigators Tuesday and Wednesday, Taylor said.

Reginald Berry, 35, of Pittsview, Ala., and Michelle Denise Buchannon, 27, of Opelika, Ala., were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a Buick LeSabre on Shady Grove Road around midnight.

Ricks and Berry had known each other for quite some time, Taylor said. Two weeks ago, the two men were in a physical altercation, which Berry later reported. Officials also believe Berry may have given information to investigators about the Macon County shooting, which may have led Ricks to retaliate.

“There is some indication that there is some problems between the two of them — Mr. Ricks and Mr. Berry — in the past, as of a couple weeks ago,” Taylor said. “There was a history between the two of them and I feel like Mr. Ricks may have thought that Mr. Berry was a witness in the Macon County case that occurred earlier.”

At 7:30 p.m. Monday, Berry attended a party in Macon County where an individual was shot, officials said.

“My understanding was that (the Macon County shooting) took place as one of the people was leaving the party on a public road,” Taylor said.

Berry then went to pick up his girlfriend, Buchannon, from a home she was visiting around 10 p.m. Monday. A passerby reported seeing their car around 11 p.m.

Taylor said Ricks, who was questioned Tuesday afternoon, gave investigators information that led them to believe he was there the night of the shooting.

Although Taylor was unsure whether Ricks has a criminal history, since any prior offenses would be juvenile cases, he said the Sheriff’s office met with Ricks six months prior when he was a victim of a crime.

Investigators also are looking into what mechanical problems the LeSabre may have had that led Berry and Buchannon to pull over Monday night. When police found the car, it was half off the road with the hazard lights on. The car was not out of gas or unable to crank, Taylor said.

Ricks’ bond was set at $1.5 million during a Wednesday hearing.

Tuesday's story: The Russell County Sheriff's Office along with the Macon County Sheriff's Office are investigating a double homicide near Hurtsboro Ala., that took place Monday night. Officials say the homicide may be connected to a Macon County shooting which occurred earlier in the evening.

Reginald Berry, 35, of Pittsview, Ala., and Michelle Denise Buchannon, 27, of Opelika, Ala., were found slumped over in a grey Buick LeSabre at about 11:30 p.m. after a passerby reported the incident to the Sheriff's Office near midnight. Both victims were already dead when deputies arrived.

During a Tuesday news conference, Sheriff Heath Taylor said both victims were shot multiple times sometime between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. He declined to give the number of gunshot wounds or the location of the wounds.

"I don't give out locations and numbers of gunshot wounds because the only people that know that are law enforcement and the person that shot them," Taylor said.

Although the Sheriff's Office doesn't have warrants out for any suspects, Taylor confirmed Rashawn Ricks, of Bullock County, and Derrick Cliatt, of Hurtsboro, were being voluntarily questioned Tuesday afternoon in Russell County. Ricks is facing attempted murder charges in connection with the Macon County shooting, Taylor said.

Russell County deputies were in Macon County Tuesday, working with local law enforcement to gather information.

Taylor said the investigators have been working nonstop since the shootings.

Taylor said Berry had been at a party at an undisclosed location in Macon County when an altercation took place at about 7:30 p.m. During the altercation, a person was injured in a nonfatal shooting.

Berry may have known the victim from the Macon County shooting. In fact, Taylor said investigators suspect Berry may have given information to Macon County deputies that led suspects to seek revenge.

"The investigation so far has revealed that our victim was there during this incident and possibly had made some comments to the (Macon County) Sheriff's Office," Taylor said. "I'm understanding there's no official reports or statements made to them, but we do feel like he told him something. So my obvious question is, 'Is this a situation where they're trying to alleviate any witnesses from the prior incident?' I don't know.

Near 10 p.m. Monday, Berry left Macon County and came to pick up Buchannon at a house on Shady Grove Road. The car was half off the road with its hazards lights on, and had seemingly pulled over voluntarily as it was headed toward the couple's home on Railroad Street.

Though he would not discuss whether there were shell casings or any other kind of evidence in the vehicle, Taylor said the driver's side window had been broken.

"The vehicle was heading into Hurtsboro," Taylor said. "It looked like that he had picked her up and potentially was just on the way home."

The couple had been dating for about two years. Both have family in the Hurtsboro area.

In a similar case on Nov. 1, 2009, a man was shot to death in Hurtsboro two and a half weeks after giving investigators his account of a homicide in Bullock County. Alfred 'Little Dave' Brown, 27, was gunned down about 3 a.m. outside the Cobb Street home of some friends. He had given authorities a sworn statement regarding the Oct. 11, 2009, shooting of Darnie Swanson, 26, at the Highway 51 Club in Bullock County.

Gabrius Immanuel Mitchell, 29, was acquitted June 14, 2012, in a trial moved from Union Springs to the Russell County Judicial Center to ensure adequate courtroom security. Prosecutors in the case said their witnesses had been warned not to cooperate with law enforcement.

Follow crime reporter Tiffany Stevens on Twitter at twitter.com/tiffanymstevens.

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