Sheila Clark Brooks (Source: Covington County Sheriff's Office)
Eugene Wallace Black (Source: Covington County Sheriff's Office)
Sheila Williams (Source: Covington County Sheriff's Office)
COVINGTON CO., AL (WSFA) -
A woman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery for her role in the 1994 robbery and murder of Covington County businessman James "Nibby" Barton.
Sandra Ellison Lynn, 53, was one of four people indicted in 2013 after the Covington County district attorney's cold case task force reopened the investigation into Barton's death. Court records show Lynn participated in planning the robbery, but didn't participate in the robbery or murder.
“Ms. Lynn was indicted for murder because the law in Alabama says that if you participate at any level in a felony and during the commission of that felony, someone is killed, then you can be charged for the murder, too," said Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell. “dropping the murder charge against Lynn seemed fair and appropriate, given the fact that she was not at the store when Mr. Barton was killed.”
Lynn was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison. A hearing to determine if she will be granted probation will be set at a later date.
The cases against two of the other suspects, Eugene Wallace Black and Sheila Williams Walker, are set to go to trial in August. The final suspect, Sheila Ellison Brooks, 57, died in jail last year of natural causes while awaiting trial.
In May 1994 James "Nibby" Barton was found dead behind the counter of his convenience store. Since then, investigators have been working to bring justice to Barton and his family.
On Dec. 13, 2013, authorities announced indictments against the four individuals. All but Lynn were placed under arrest at that time.
Lynn, was taken into custody the following weekend.
Officials say there were possibly others involved in the murder who have since died.
In February 2013, the cold case task force reopened the case and started what they called a clean slate of investigating. Officers began to review the case and developed a theory, and while working to prove the theory wrong, they started finding more evidence to point to the suspects.
Although investigators declined to go into detail, an excavation was connected to the case.
Officials say they have physical evidence, plus eye-witnesses and partial confessions that enabled a grand jury to indict the individuals.
"Our family has waited for 19-and-a-half years for this day. We are grateful to the investigators. We will give thanks this Christmas and it will be a good Christmas for our family," said Barton's son, Jimmy.
"Justice delayed is not always justice denied," said Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell. "Despite the length of time since Mr. Barton was murdered, an abundance of evidence surrounding this crime has been uncovered and we are confident justice will be served."