Double Murder Suspects Make First Court Appearance In Crenshaw County

Authorities Make Arrests In Double Murder
Authorities Make Arrests In Double Murder

HIGHLAND HOME, AL (WSFA) - Under heavy guard Antonio Jamar McNear and John Lewis Thomas, Jr., arrived for their first court appearance. Both deny any involvement in the shooting deaths of 49-year old Charles Kelley, the owner of Kelley Grocery Mart and store employee Pat Bargainer.

"I didn't murder nobody," said McNear.

Thomas shook his head 'no' when asked by another reporter whether he had killed the victims just before entering the courthouse behind McNear.

At a news conference, however,  the Crenshaw County District Attorney says both men are connected to the crime.

"Each has been charged with one count of capital murder, one count of robbery and one count of attempted robbery," said John Andrews.

Both were captured in Montgomery County just hours after the shootings Wednesday afternoon in Highland Home. Witnesses remember seeing the suspects drive off in an old Chevy pick-up and that apparently was the key to capturing one of the alleged gunmen, but authorities wouldn't say who was driving at the time. The second suspect was found a few hours later at a Montgomery County residence.

"The vehicle was stopped by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and I don't know if it was a routine traffic stop or not," said Lt. Barry Tucker of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Once in court McNear and Thomas stood side by side, both indicated they understood the charges. The judge in the case denied bond for McNear and Thomas. Within a few minutes the hearing was over and as they headed back to jail, McNear and Thomas still proclaimed their innocence, saying they know nothing.

"I didn't murder nobody," McNear said again, and again Thomas shook his head 'no' when we asked if had anything to say.

A source very close to the case says one of the two men confessed but no one in law enforcement will confirm anything on the record.

Antonio McNear's parents were in court today in support of their son. They tell WSFA 12 News they believe their son had nothing to do with the murders. No one showed up in support of Thomas.

John Andrews says he'll present his case to the grand jury in February but Andrew says it's highly unlikely he'll have all the facts by then.