Homicide case in limbo over apparent jurisdiction issues

Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - A homicide investigation is in limbo despite one police department saying it has solved the case and made an arrest, only to release the suspect after determining it lacks jurisdiction.

Wetumpka Police Chief Gregory Benton says the case involving the body of a woman found shot to death in the parking lot of Elmore Community Hospital early Friday morning should be pursued by the Montgomery Police Department, but Benton says MPD is declining to do so.

The victim has since been identified by Chief Benton as KeAria Battle.

Benton said his officers solved Battle’s case within 12 hours after visiting with her family and determining names of the people she was with when she left her home in Wetumpka.

“We know where and when it happened,” Benton says, adding that it was corroborated by witnesses and that “video exists.”

But after his investigators determined the homicide happened in Montgomery, Benton says his assistant chief contacted MPD to take over the case and “ran into resistance.”

Benton says his counterpart at MPD declined to take the case, allegedly because it couldn’t be proved the homicide happened in the capital city. “We proved it,” Benton contends.

“We had a suspect in custody,” Benton explained. “We know he is the suspect that killed her. We have the time, witness statements. We have the evidence. We had the person in custody and had to let him go because we couldn’t investigate a murder outside of jurisdiction.”

The Wetumpka Police Department has also reached out to the State Bureau of Investigation and says it was told SBI would contact an assistant district attorney in Montgomery on Friday. Benton says he hadn’t heard back from Montgomery’s police department or the district attorney’s office as of Monday afternoon.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Benton stated. “I’ve spoken to many others in law enforcement and nobody else has either.”

The SBI tells WSFA 12 News it has no comment.

Montgomery District Attorney Daryl Bailey says he’s had no communication with Wetumpka police on the matter and that no one has reached out to him about the case. He said he will work with Elmore County District Attorney Randall Houston to invite both police departments to meet and review the investigation, then they’ll provide some legal guidance on how to move forward.

Following Bailey’s confirmation that he would work to find a solution, the Montgomery Police Department responded to WSFA 12 News’ request for comment saying it had no information to release and cited Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the evidence and jurisdictional issues.

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