• 72°

Butler County juries return 2 manslaughter convictions

Butler County jurors heard trials this week, and returned verdicts in two murder trials. Also, two suspects pled guilty during trial proceedings for sex-related crimes, and one suspect was remanded to the custody of a state mental hospital, following drug charges.

On Monday and Tuesday, jurors heard testimony against Aaron Benson Edwards, of Georgiana. Edwards was accused of murdering Ira Paul Fields, also of Georgiana, in 1999. Edwards was convicted of manslaughter, and the court has ordered a pre-sentence investigation, with a sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 4, 2001.

On Wednesday, Vandora Jones was tried for the murder of her estranged husband, who was shot at approximately 8:50 p.m. on Nov. 16, 1999, according to testimony and records of the Greenville Police Department.

Records indicated that the victim lived approximately three and one half-hours, when he was pronounced dead at a Greenville hospital.

Jones will also be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2001, following a pre-sentence investigation.

On Tuesday, jurors heard the trial of Earl Wayne Whiddon, who stood accused of four counts of sodomy in the first degree and one count of sexual abuse in the first degree. After Whiddon's 11-year-old granddaughter gave a heart-wrenching horror story of sexual abuse that started when she seven, the trial was interrupted so that the defendant could meet in private with his attorneys.

Following the recess, Whiddon a 70-year-old resident of McKenzie pled guilty to all charges.

Whiddon was sentenced to 15 years, on a split-sentence, to serve 30 months in prison, with the remaining portion suspended, and also five years of supervised probation.

On Thursday, Lester Boutwell stood accused of sexual abuse in the second degree. During the jury selection process, Boutwell's attorneys indicated that Boutwell wished to enter a plea, at which time the jury was excused.

Boutwell pled guilty to the charge, and received a sentence of one year in prison, and two years of supervised probation.

Also on Thursday, James Edward Simpson stood trial for distribution of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance, crack cocaine.

Due to mental illness, Simpson was sentenced to hospitalization at the Taylor-Harden Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa.

Speaking of the results of the week, Assistant District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer was pleased. "I feel that the jury verdicts that came down were just," Tesmer said. "With regard to the sexual offenses which all involved minors as victims, the cases were very difficult, emotionally."

Tesmer wished to commend all of the agencies involved. "We successfully tried these criminals because of tremendous cooperation between several agencies," she said. "I can't say enough about the valuable asset this County has in the Child's Advocacy Center-without them, we could not have obtained as much evidence as we did.

"And with regard to the sentencing in plea agreements, the victims and their families had to agree to them before they could be approved," Tesmer said.