The capital murder trial of Jeffrey McKelvey began Thursday morning in the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville. McKelvey is charged with five counts of capital murder in the deaths of Denie and Pam Tucker in their home near the Asbury community.
Following Judge Tim Riley’s initial instructions to the jury, Ed Kellett with the Marshall County District Attorney’s Office and Kevin Hanson, attorney for the defendant, presented their opening statements.
Kellett said McKelvey and Henry Pyle showed up at the Tuckers’ front door on Sept. 10, 2015, under the guise of repaying the kindness of Mr. Tucker loaning them money a few days earlier. The Tuckers, he said, were successful business owners and were well liked and respected in their community. The couple traveled to horse shows and made horses a large part of their lives.
They also enjoyed attending Guntersville High School football games where their grandson played. On game day, Sept. 11, one of their two sons attempted to get in touch with them throughout the day. By the end of the workday when he still had not heard from his parents, he drove to their home.
It was then when he found the house ransacked and saw his father lying in the bedroom. After returning outside, he called 911. The house was secured as a crime scene. Among the evidence found were three .40-caliber spent cartridges and fingerprints on the inside glass of the storm door.
Kellett said an exhaustive investigation was launched “casting a wide net”. While following leads investigators received information about an incident at the Cracker Barrel in Cullman several days before the murders. In mid-November the state lab identified the fingerprints found at the home as McKelvey’s, changing the course of the investigation.
Kellett said key witness Henry Pyle will testify that he and McKelvey were friends and were “equal partners in the scheme” of approaching people in public places along Interstate 65 asking for gas money to get to McKelvey’s daughter in the hospital. Pyle pleaded guilty to murder in a plea deal in 2016 and is serving life in prison. He avoided the possibility of the death penalty by agreeing to testify against McKelvey. Kellett said Pyle will testify the gun used in the shootings was wiped clean and tossed over a bridge as they crossed it on their way back to Birmingham.
Once in Birmingham, the two went on a drug binge and stayed at a series of motels with several women. Pyle gave a necklace stolen from the Tuckers’ home to one of the women, and she has turned it over to investigators.
Another woman said she was with McKelvey when he pawned a pair of diamond earrings about 10 days after the crime. Hanson, in addressing the jury, asked members in deciding the fate of his client to look for certain things.
He talked about the meaning of burden of proof and the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Hanson said there is a lot of confusion about it, and that many consider it to be“something that will make you hesitate”.
Hanson said Pyle has given as many as eight different statements since the murders. In one statement, he said, Pyle refused to say anything until he got his plea deal. In 2017, Hanson said Pyle was involved in an altercation in prison. He was required to take anger management classes, and in one intake account he was described as having no remorse.
Hanson said Pyle pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and asked the jury to keep in mind when weighing all the information what were his goals. He said to keep an open mind,wait to hear the entire story, and make sure there is enough evidence before deciding.
The trial is expected to continue for around three weeks.