New details emerge in Houston Co. murder-manhunt

(WTVY News 4)
Updated: Jul. 8, 2022 at 10:30 AM CDT
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HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WTVY) - Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza released new details Friday on a homicide-turned-daylong manhunt that stretched across county lines.

The news conference was held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, and can be watched in the attached video.

Houston County Sheriff, Donald Valenza, held a news conference to discuss a Thursday morning murder that led to nearly a day-long manhunt across county lines.

Valenza confirmed Nowell, who we now know is from Webb, and Phillips were in a relationship. The shooting happened during a fight between the couple. Valenza said the couple was at a party, and Nowell followed Phillips, who was driving someone home. Witnesses at the scene of the homicide told investigators Nowell drove his vehicle into the front of the one Phillips was driving, then fired one deadly gunshot from inside his truck. Phillips died on the ground outside of the vehicle around 4:00 a.m. from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Nowell is charged with capital murder, according to Valenza, who referenced section 18 of state code. That section details capital offenses in Alabama include homicides or deaths committed “during a drive-by shooting, or while the victim was inside a vehicle or home.” It is not yet known if Nowell was under the influence at the time of the shooting, and the murder weapon has not yet been recovered. Valenza confirmed more search warrants are expected, and this case is still open.

Valenza credited local media outlets, like News4, which was the first on the scene, for playing a vital role in alerting the community. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that,” he said, while also giving a special thanks to the over 100 area law enforcement officers who helped during the 11.5-hour manhunt. Valenza said it’s one of the largest manhunts he’s been a part of.

Houston County Sheriff’s Office partners with other law enforcement agencies across the Wiregrass and across state lines for situations like this. Valenza said, “It’s always good to know you can reach out, and something like this, it takes a while, but you have to go for an apprehension.”

News4 questioned the department on the costs of manhunts, and what those expenses add up to for the department. Valenza said, “I know that’s a concern to some, but to me, I don’t care what the cost is. We had a murder that cost a person’s life, and we use all the resources we can. I’m sure if you added it all up, it would be pretty high.”

A few law enforcement officers were treated on scene for heat exhaustion. Valenza said they’re doing fine, and applauds their strength for running “miles and miles through the woods” to bring a peaceful end to the manhunt.

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