Suspect in 1994 Covington County murder sentenced to 70 years

Suspect in 1994 Covington County murder sentenced to 70 years

COVINGTON CO., AL (WSFA) - Covington County Circuit Judge M. Ashley McKathan has sentenced 56-year-old Eugene Wallace Black to 70 years in prison for the murder of a convenience store owner back in the mid-90s.

A jury found Black guilty in August of the 1994 murder and attempted robbery of James "Nibby" Barton who was found dead behind the counter of his convenience store.

It took jurors less than an hour to deliberate the guilty verdict.

Black and three women weren't indicted on murder charges until 2013.

Law enforcement leads grew cold in the case because all of the participants kept quiet, according to the Covington County District Attorney's Office.

That was until April 2013, when the cold case task force reopened the file and Black confided in someone about his involvement. That person reported it to police.

"We had been looking at Black as a suspect for several months. We had interviewed him and interviewed many people close to him. We think the pressure just got to be too much and he needed to release "it" to somebody. We are just thankful that they then came and told us," investigator Wesley Snodgrass testified said.

Two others have pleaded guilty -- Sandra Lynn and Sheila Williams both testified in Black's trial. The final suspect, Sheila Brooks, died in jail of natural causes.

Testimony during the trial revealed Black and Lynn lived together and needed money. Lynn testified she suggested that Barton would be a good target because he carried lots of money.

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