Willie David Pugh, Jr.Birth: abt 1985
January 14, 2012
No obituary found.
Press Release - May 23, 2013
Sheriff LeRoy Upshaw announced the arrest of Willie James Dickerson Jr. 41, of 4444 Hwy. 51 S. Ariton, AL (Doster Community) by the Barbour County Sheriff's Office. Dickerson is being charged with Capital Murder in the death of Willie David Pugh of Clio, AL.
Sheriff Upshaw said that the alleged murder occurred in Barbour County just south of Clio on January 14, 2012. The investigation has been ongoing since that time after the victim's girlfriend reported him missing on January 15, 2012. She stated that Pugh was supposedly going to Dickerson's residence. The victim's car was located approximately 500 yards south of Dickerson's residence, parked behind an abandoned mobile home. The victim's bloody clothing was found inside the car.
Upshaw said that an intense manhunt was launched for the missing person by his agency and others including, Dale County Sheriff's Office, ABI, FBI, Clio PD, Elamville, Louisville and White Oak Shores Fire Departments, Regional Land and Water Rescue, Southwest Panhandle Search and Rescue, Henry County Rescue, Monroe County Search and Rescue, Liberty and Washington County Florida Search and Rescue Teams, Barbour County EMA, the NAACP, private citizens, and Jean Hartzog who delivered food and water for everyone. Upshaw is very appreciative of everyone who took part in the search for the victim.
The victim was located in a wooded area off of Sutton Dairy Rd. on January 24, 2012 and transported to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for an autopsy. The autopsy reveled the victim died from stab wounds and blunt force trauma.
Upshaw said that this was a very time consuming investigation due in part to there being three different crime scenes, as well as a fire at the suspect's residence on the night of January 25, 2012. Before the investigation could move forward, the fire had to be investigated by the Alabama Fire Marshall Office. Upshaw said the investigation concluded on May 21, 2012.
Barbour County Sheriff's Office Investigator, Lt. David Morris who was in charge of the investigation,would like to thank all of the many people who were involved in one or another aspect of the investigation including the disappearance of the victim, the resultant manhunt, and crime scene. He would like to personally thank Investigator Joe Weaver of the Dale County Sheriff's office who assisted Morris in just about every step in the investigation and Crime Scene Investigator, Jon Thomas from Dothan Police Department who gave his invaluable service at the crime scenes, autopsy, and evidence collection. "It made my job so much easier having these guys with me step for step," Morris said.
Lt. Morris arrested the suspect at the Houston County Jail on May 23, 2012, where he is currently incarnated on separate charges by Dothan Police Department.
Union Springs Herald
June 24, 2015
Judge Albert Johnson ordered a mistrial in the Dickerson trial because the jurors could not agree on a verdict.
Willie James Dickerson, Jr. was tried for the murder of Willie David Pugh which occurred January of 2012. Dickerson and Pugh both lived in Barbour County near Clio at the time.
Judge Burt Smithart, who is the circuit judge for Bullock and Barbour Counties, recused himself from presiding over the trial.
In Judge Smithart’s Order of Recusal, he stated under the Canons of Judicial Responsibility, the Court must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Judge Smithart said his role in the case had been intentionally distorted and falsely portrayed to the public by a blog reporter in internet postings.
Before Judge Smithart recused himself from the case he had transferred the venue of the trial to Russell County to insure a fair and unbiased jury pool. Retired Judge Albert Johnson was assigned to preside over the trial by the Alabama Supreme Court.
Attorneys Emmitt Wade Hampton and J. Carlton Taylor represented the defendant and District Attorney Ben Reeves was the prosecutor for the state. Reeves serves as district attorney for Bullock and Barbour Counties.
The jury was selected on Monday, June 15, 2015. The trial began the next day and lasted about four and a half days. Prosecutor Ben Reeves was well prepared for the trial. He presented physical evidence, pictures, audio recordings and witnesses.
The defense attorneys cross-examined witnesses and raised questions about the evidence. A forensic medical examiner employed with the State of Alabama testified that Pugh died as a result of a cut carotid artery in his neck.
He also said Pugh had a fractured jaw, missing teeth and a cut voice box. Many things pointed to Dickerson’s guilt. A bloody steak knife was found in Dickerson’s bathroom sink; bloody towels and rags were found in Dickerson’s bedroom all of which had Pugh’s DNA thereon. Dickerson’s DNA was found on a latex glove fingertip torn from a latex glove. The glove fingertip was inside the duct tape that was wrapped around Pugh’s body. A latex glove with a missing fingertip was found in Dickerson’s bedroom.
Evidence showed that Dickerson and Pugh were together on the night of the murder. The day after the murder, Dickerson’s body had scratches and cuts which Reeves contended he received while he was dragging Pugh’s body into the woods.
Dickerson gave four different excuses for the scratches and cuts. He first said his girlfriend scratched him, then he said a dog did it, then he said he got them while he and Pugh were in the woods at night looking for a marijuana patch and lastly he told his mother, in a recorded phone conversation from jail, that a wild animal like a bobcat or a cougar or a panther attacked him. But possibly the most incriminating evidence was a recorded phone conversation made by Dickerson while he was in jail in Dothan, AL. He called his sister and it appeared he may have been asking his sister to burn his home or she would never see him again.
About two hours after that phone call, firefighters were called to a fire at Dickerson’s home. Reeves told the jury Dickerson wanted his home burned so the evidence inside would be destroyed before law enforcement could find it.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire and law enforcement was able to retrieve evidence from the home. One of the defense attorneys said law enforcement did a shoddy job and a much better investigation could have taken place.
He pointed out that law enforcement didn’t even question neighbors. He said the evidence was all circumstantial and the prosecutor didn’t prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The jury began deliberations at about 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, June 22, 2015.
Around noon on the next day the jurors told the judge they could not agree on a verdict. Judge Johnson ordered a mistrial. Dickerson’s charges were reduced from capital murder to murder during the trial.
Since the charges were reduced, Dickerson will now be eligible for a bond. Judge Johnson will set the bond amount at a later date. The case will be retried probably later this year, according to one of the defense attorneys.
After the conclusion of the trial, District Attorney Ben Reeves told reporters, “We were looking forward to a guilty verdict, that part is disappointing. We are disappointed for the family. We’ve had maybe 25 Pugh family members here all day everyday and it’s heartbreaking for them to sit here and then have to walk out without the justice they deserve and the justice they were seeking. We’ll do it again whenever the judge sets us a date. We’ll get another jury and we’ll do our case even stronger and harder and learn from this and go forward and get a guilty verdict on the next go around.”
Dickerson’s attorneys released the following statement to the press, “Mr. Dickerson and his legal team would like to thank the jurors for their diligence in deliberating this case and attempting to reach a verdict. We are obviously disappointed they were unable to return a Not Guilty verdict which we feel was supported by the evidence. The State did not meet its burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, we are elated to be proceeding forward with a non-Capital charge of murder and feel that upon a retrial a verdict of Not Guilty will be returned by the newly empanelled jury in this matter; hopefully some time later this year. We would lastly commend the Court for its handling of this case which made for a smoother trial process allowing the jury to focus on the evidence. Mr. Dickerson, who has been held without bond for three years, now has an $80,000.00 bond and hopefully will be released pending trial.”
Penny Carter - Mar. 10, 2017
A death in the family for defense attorney Connie Cooper has led to a continuance in the murder trial against Willie James Dickerson, who stands accused of killing Barbour County man Willie David Pugh in January of 2012.
Jury selection wrapped up before lunch on Monday, March 6, leading to opening statements being heard from Barbour County District Attorney Ben Reeves and Cooper immediately after lunch at the Russell County Justice Center in Phenix City. The jury for the case consisted of 13 people, 12 jurors and an alternate, which were made up of four men and nine women.
Reeves began his opening statements by telling the jury that the case is important “not only to the state, Willie Pugh and his family, but to Willie Dickerson also.” He continued through his opening statement laying out the order of events that occurred on Jan. 14, 2012, as Pugh and his common law wife, Brittany, got up and went about the activities they had planned for the day. He told of how Pugh dropped Brittany off at her sister’s house that evening, and then went into the details of Brittany’s search for Pugh after he quit answering his phone later that night. Reeves gave an account of how the Clio Police Department became involved in the case, as well as the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies, and painted a picture of the scene at Dickerson’s house the morning after Pugh went missing and Brittany found the car he had been driving the night before not far from the Dickerson residence.
The District Attorney chronicled the four different stories Dickerson told to explain the scratches and injuries he had on his body the day after Pugh disappeared, and of the week long search that brought multiple state agencies, volunteer search and rescue groups, family, friends and other volunteers out in the foul weather that plagued the area that January. The finding of Pugh’s body by a lone individual, just two days after the organized search ended, was particularized along with the scene as multiple law enforcement agencies processed the area. Details of evidence collected both from Dickerson’s home, the car and the area where the body was found were gone over in detail, as was the searches of Dickerson’s home.
The death of the lead investigator, David Morris, for the county Sheriff’s department in 2014 was talked about. Reeves told jury members that with Morris’s death it did add a level of difficulty to the trial, but that Morris had testified at a hearing before his death on evidence that had been collected and that his sworn testimony would be read to them in regards to the evidence and case.
Recorded conversations from the Houston County Jail, where Dickerson was transported to for outstanding warrants from Houston County after he was questioned by the BCSO, between Dickerson, his mother and his sister that were made the day Pugh’s body was found were elaborated on. Reeves told of how Dickerson told his sister in code to burn his house, that if she didn’t do it for him “he would never get out of jail.”
“There’s not going to be a confession,” Reeves said to jury members as he closed his opening statement Monday afternoon. “Evidence in this case points to nobody but Willie Dickerson.” He told them to remember the jail calls he had told them about, that the sequence of them were important in regards to the trailer fire and evidence…that Dickerson wanted a bag of evidence gone before it was found.
Cooper began her opening statement calling the case odd, strange and bizarre; she commented that it was one of the strangest cases she had worked.
“I will call into question a lot of David Morris’s actions, Cooper said. She continued on claiming that there was gross negligence in the case and the handling of evidence.
She asked the jury to “consider the circumstances of statements given by Dickerson, that none were ever recorded or written out and that they are asked to believe that officers remembered everything that Dickerson said.”
Cooper hinted that evidence was planted by Morris, giving details and dates of when evidence was found and when it was sent off for testing. She hinted at an illegal search of Dickerson’s residence, saying that Morris went into the house before a search warrant was ever obtained and that during multiple searches a bag supposedly lying on the floor by the defendant’s bed, that contained evidence, was never seen by any of the officers. She noted that it was during the fourth search of Dickerson’s home that the bag was found.
Cooper pointed out that there was no trace evidence in the car…no finger prints. “Not one piece of evidence contains both DNA of these men,” she commented. “As soon as Morris zeroed in on Dickerson, the case was solved. I am not trying to make Morris a scapegoat – I wish he was here so I could put his feet to the fire.”
Three witnesses - Brittany McLeod, Pugh’s common-law wife; Ricky Kennedy, a police officer from Clio; and Clio Police Chief Richard Johnson – were called during the first day.
As soon as court got under way on Tuesday, Cooper immediately asked to address the court before the jury came in to be seated. It was at this point that Cooper asked retired acting Russell County Circuit Court Judge Albert L. Johnson for a mistrial in the case that had just opened the previous day. She went on to explain that during the early morning hours Tuesday, her sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly and she felt like she needed to be with her family.
“I am a solo practitioner, and even if I had another attorney with me, I feel responsible for the presentation of the evidence in this case, so I feel I have no choice but to request a mistrial,” Cooper told the court. “This is a case that requires so much focus and attention and at this time I just feel like I need to be there for my family.”
“By the look on her face you could tell something wasn’t right,” Reeves said of Cooper Tuesday afternoon. “I could tell something was wrong.”
During her address to the court, Cooper said that she knew Reeves had testimony that would carry the trial through Thursday, and at the present time she felt that she couldn’t continue. “I need to be with my family, Judge.”
After the jury were brought into the courtroom and seated, Judge Johnson addressed them saying, “If you remember at the beginning of the trial I told you that I would not make any of you sit here if an emergency came up and you needed to be at home, well the same is true for the attorneys.” He then told them of the unexpected death of the defense attorney’s sister-in-law.
Judge Johnson questioned how to handle the case other than declaring a mistrial, saying that that would involve a lot of rescheduling. “If I can find a date in the next several weeks that we can get a courtroom and get everyone back together, then we’ll continue. I would prefer to continue the case and not have to start all over again because we are in the second day of the trial now. Now, if I can’t find something in the next several weeks, then I may be forced to out of manifest necessity - since the jurors have heard testimony - to declare a mistrial. I hesitate to continue until October, and bring everybody back and continue, because we’d have to start over again.”
With the agreement of both the District Attorney and the defense attorney, Monday, March 27, was set by Judge Johnson to continue the trial and to pick up with witnesses at the point where the trial was recessed on March 6.