Today jury selection began in a bizarre 2007 Russell County murder case in which a mother’s accused of hiring a family worker to kill her own daughter.
Lisa Graham is accused of having Kenneth Walton gun down 20-year-old Shea Graham sometime before midnight on July 5, 2007, leaving the young woman’s bullet-riddled body alongside Bowden Road. According to an autopsy report, she was shot at least five times -- twice in the head and three times in the torso.
The triggerman pleaded guilty to murder June 14 and was sentenced to life in prison. District Attorney Ken Davis has said Walton will testify against Lisa Graham in the capital murder case. Walton worked for Lisa Graham’s husband.
This morning authorities spent about an hour on an initial cull of the jury pool, excusing those unable to serve. That left about 65 potential jurors who are to return Tuesday at 9 a.m. as the process resumes.
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys spoke to reporters today. Among those waiting outside the courtroom was Lisa Graham’s mother, Cherie Crabb, who maintains her daughter is innocent. Other friends and family also have expressed their disbelief that Lisa Graham would have harmed her daughter.
Prosecutors and investigators have said it’s one of the oddest cases they’ve ever encountered.
Authorities allege that shortly before the shooting, Walton and Lisa Graham met at the Columbus Public Library, where she gave him the handgun.
Friends told investigators they last saw Shea Graham getting into Walton’s truck at a gas station on Victory Drive in Columbus. Walton initially denied leaving the gas station with Shea Graham, court documents show, but acknowledged it after investigators told him they triangulated his cell phone to the Bowden Road area around the time of the shooting. In a 2008 court hearing, investigator Grover Goodrich testified that Walton confessed to the shooting and even acted it out for Heath Taylor, the Russell County sheriff who was a lieutenant at the time. According to Goodrich, Walton said Lisa Graham had long asked him to “do something about Shea.” “He said there was no specific amount of money,” Goodrich said. “She said that she was going to take care of him. There were things that were going to be done.”
Prosecutors have said they will use incriminating statements Lisa Graham allegedly made during an interview with investigators, and when she thought she was speaking privately to her husband at the sheriff’s office, but was being recorded. Defense attorneys have sought to exclude those statements, claiming Lisa Graham was not fully advised of her rights.
The defense attorneys are Margaret Young Brown of Auburn and Robert Poole of Whittelsey, Whittelsey & Poole in Opelika. In pre-trial hearings, investigators have testified that Lisa Graham had grown tired of her daughter’s drug use and feared she was going to jump bail on charges she faced in a drive-by shooting in Columbus.
Shea Graham was indicted in Muscogee County on four counts of aggravated assault in connection with that case. Prosecutors alleged she drove past a crowd on Ginny Avenue while passenger Stanley R. Heath fired into it, striking one man in the shoulder.
Heath pleaded guilty and is serving a seven-year prison sentence. Russell County investigators said Shea Graham was to appear in court in Columbus the morning after she was shot.