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Deputies plead guilty
by Reggie Ross, Staff Writer and Ruth Jensen
Oct 10, 2013 | 392 views | 0 0 comments | 70 70 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LEXINGTON -- Carroll County Deputies John Beck and Curtis Bela Alford, accused of shooting at a Lexington man in 2011, pleaded guilty Friday in Holmes County Circuit Court.

Beck is set to be sentenced tomorrow in Lexington, according to James Powell, attorney for both Beck and Alford. Beck will be sentenced before Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis.

Beck pleaded guilty to shooting into a vehicle and malicious mischief, and Alford pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

Friday morning, both deputies and family members showed emotion on the fifth and final day of the trial.

"This is a just a tough situation for both parties involved," defense attorney Kevin Horan said.

On March 9, 2011, the deputies said they saw a car turn around to avoid a road block they had set up in the Black Hawk area.

The car headed into Holmes County, and Alford and Beck pursued.

The car wrecked, and its two occupants escaped.

Soon after, the deputies spotted Odessa Williams and Albert Coffee sitting in their vehicles at an electrical substation off of Mississippi 17. When the deputies approached the men to question them, Williams drove away. Beck, who said Williams tried to run him over, fired nine shots into his car. Meanwhile, Alford held Coffee in his patrol car for several hours.

Williams and Coffee said they had met at the sub-station to talk when the two deputies stopped to try to talk to them. Williams said he was afraid and left the scene quickly, after which Beck shot into the back of his vehicle. Coffee alleges he was held against his will in Alford's patrol car for no reason.

Beck and Alford were facing charges of aggravated assault, shooting into a vehicle, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and kidnapping.

"The fact (Beck and Alford) admitted to doing wrong -- it was a relief for the victims," Holmes County District Attorney Akillie Malone Oliver said after the trial.

Carroll County Sheriff Jerry Carver said he will likely begin to search for replacements.

"You never prepare for something like this," he said.

Thursday’s testimony

The day before the plea, trajectory was the focus of the trial as state agents testified what they concluded about the scene of the shooting.

Several agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation appeared as witnesses and spoke on tests they had performed at the scene and on Williams' Honda Accord, the vehicle Beck shot multiple times. The state called MBI's Mark Sted, Chris Wingert, Duyana Broughton and Brian McIntire.

Chris Wingert, MBI analyst, testified he discovered a total of six shots into Williams' vehicle when it was processed at the Carroll County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The car was towed to the EOC following the incident.

"I found three shots in the back windshield, two in the trunk and one shot into the taillight," Wingert told assistant district attorney Scott Rogillio.

In the cross examination, Powell said Wingert's studies were inaccurate and that there were holes also in the tires of the vehicle, but Wingert did not examine those holes due to a flat tire, mud and debris.

"There were three bullets in the tire, your analysis was wrong," Powell said. "How common is it that you miss ballistic evidence? You missed three bullet holes."

Following an objection by the prosecution, Wingert did not answer.

Duyana Broughton, from MBI's Crime Scene Unit, was also called to process the car, and she testified that she noted the same bullet holes found by Wingert. She said she also found the three bullets in the rear tire -- a total of nine shots that entered Williams' car.

McIntire stated that he tested both weapons belonging to Alford and Beck, once in March 2011 and again in April 2011. He testified that he could not determine if the fragmented bullets were fired from either weapon.

Wednesday’s testimony

Wednesday, Powell hammered his message of the chief investigator's work being "shoddy and biased" repeatedly as he asked Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Agent Lucarus Oliver, husband of Holmes District Attorney Akillie Oliver, whether he had any physical evidence linking Deputy Curtis Bela Alford to the charges against him.

"Is there any ballistics evidence that associates Mr. Alford at any time?" Powell asked Lucarus Oliver.

"We found nothing to prove he shot his weapon," Oliver replied.

"Is there any evidence of Alford's DNA being in the vehicle where bullets would have been removed, or any photographs of Alford in connection to him removing evidence from the vehicle?" Powell asked. "You have alleged they tampered with evidence. What evidence do you have that they removed evidence?"

Oliver said the deputies stated they went inside the car, which was at the Carroll Emergency Operations Center, to get identification and cell phones.

"There were certain places where we should have found evidence and we didn't," Oliver said.

Powell pushed Oliver on when the tire was searched for bullets.

"When you came to the EOC center, did you check the tire for bullets?" Powell asked.

"No," Oliver replied. He said he did not check the tire for bullets until May 18, 2011, two months after the March 9 incident, when he went to the Lexington home of Odessa Williams.

"Do you have any evidence of the two men agreeing to remove evidence from the scene?" Powell asked.

"No," Oliver replied.

"In the statement Albert Coffee gave you, did he say he was handcuffed by Deputy Alford?" Powell asked.

"No, he never said he was handcuffed in the statement," Oliver replied.

Alford was indicted on a kidnapping charge for allegedly holding Coffee without his permission in his patrol car.

Powell also pushed Oliver about assuming from the beginning of the investigation that Williams and Coffee were "victims" in the incident before any investigation was done.

After playing a DVD made from tapes of interviews with both deputies by Oliver the day after the incident, Powell asked Oliver why he had the deputies to come in to his office in Greenwood, where they were read their Miranda rights and interviewed for an extended time, while Coffee was interviewed on the phone when he insisted he could not or did not want to meet with investigators.

Oliver said he went to Williams' home for a short interview and "asked him what happened."

"Did you ask him why they were at the plant (Delta Electric sub-station) that night?" Powell asked.

"No," Oliver replied.

"The car was in the general area of where that car had fled from deputies. You didn't ask what they were doing there?" Powell asked.

"He told me he was talking with Edward (Albert Coffee),"Oliver said.

"Did you ask how long he had been there?" Powell asked.

"No," Oliver said.

"You had reports that Beck and Alford were victims. Any reason you didn't consider them victims?" Powell asked.

"I had talked with (Holmes County Sheriff Willie March) and he said Odessa Williams had told him his car had been shot," Oliver said.

Beck has claimed Williams tried to run over him and said that's why he shot at the car.

Powell also asked why Oliver was asked to take the case, since he is married to the Holmes district attorney. He said his superiors felt he could be fair in the investigation. Powell said Carroll Sheriff Jerry Carver had expressed concerns about Oliver's ability to be unbiased in this situation to the MBI's Eric Johnson, who assigned Oliver to the case.

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