Testimony in the capital murder trial of Jeff McKelvey continued on Monday. McKelvey is accused in the deaths of Denie and Pam Tucker in their Sand Mountain home in 2015.
Corey Brown, lead investigator, said on the same day they picked up McKelvey, investigators went to the Madison County Jail where McKelvey’s accomplice Henry Pyle was being held for an unrelated charge.
Investigators interviewed Pyle 5 or 6 times, learning new information each time. Pyle took a plea deal and is spending life in prison.
When the investigation led to the Birmingham area, Brown said, items taken from the Tucker home, including jewelry, were found at several different pawn shops. A necklace owned by Mrs. Tucker was found in the possession of a prostitute who spent some time with Pyle. She and another prostitute provided information to investigators about Pyle and McKelvey’s activities in the days and weeks following the murders.
In the afternoon, video testimony from Henry Pyle began. The testimony was recorded last March due to Pyle’s failing health.
Pyle testified that before living in various motels in the Birmingham area, he rented a trailer in April 2015 in Double Springs. McKelvey lived with him in the trailer. The two worked together at a company building mobile homes but ended up unemployed in July and had no regular jobs afterward.
He said they both used cocaine daily. They began “working a gas hustle” to get money to support their drug habits. The two traveled Interstate 65 from Franklin, Tenn., to Mobile, Ala., but targeted the Birmingham area where their drug source was located.
They stopped at hotel and restaurant parking lots, and Pyle approached their targets telling his story. He would claim his daughter was in the hospital in another state, and he needed gas money to get to her. Part of the hustle was that he would say he would pay them back.
The men split the money evenly and used it to pay bills and buy cocaine. When someone gave them gas rather than money, they used gas cans to siphon it and sell it to their drug sources.
Pyle said the day he met Denie Tucker, he and McKelvey were parked at the Cracker Barrel in Cullman. The Tuckers pulled into the space beside them. Mrs. Tucker got out first and headed toward the restaurant. Pyle ran the hustle as they were standing between the two trucks, and Mr. Tucker gave him $60.
Pyle guessed that between the money in Mr. Tucker’s pocket and in his wallet that he had $10,000. When Pyle insisted he wanted to pay him back later, Mr. Tucker gave him a business card.
At that point, the men were looking for an easier way to get more cash, Pyle said. They agreed to and planned the robbery, obtaining a gun from their drug dealer. Since the Tuckers’ address was on the business card, Pyle looked up directions on his phone.
They devised a plan for Pyle to knock on the door and present the $60 back to Mr. Tucker.
McKelvey, carrying the pistol, would stand behind Pyle and push them both inside when the door was opened.
They arrived at the home around dusk. The glass storm door was closed but the main door was open. Mrs. Tucker answered the door and walked back toward the kitchen. Mr. Tucker came to the door and the two men pushed their way in.
Mrs. Tucker began screaming and ran down the hall with McKelvey chasing her. Mr. Tucker ran outside, with Pyle following him. Pyle caught up to him, pushed him and they hit the ground.
Pyle said he then heard two “pops” from inside the house.
He said he told Mr. Tucker he was not trying to hurt him, only to take things from his house.
McKelvey then came outside and marched Mr. Tucker back into the house with the pistol to his back. Inside he heard another “pop” and Mr. Tucker was lying on the floor.
The men looked through the house taking cash, jewelry and guns. Pyle said they left with a total of $19,980.
On their return trip to Birmingham, Pyle tossed the pistol used in the crime over a bridge on Ala. Hwy. 169, he said. The next day he went to a tire store and bought a new set of tires for the pickup. The men rented motel rooms near the airport and stayed there for close to a week. Prostitutes stayed with the men for several days.
The men stayed in motels in Irondale and in Birmingham. They ran out of the money they took, Pyle said, from buying drugs, putting his bank account back in order, paying his rent for which he was behind, paying the balance on McKelvey’s truck and buying tools for the truck.