Two plead not guilty to Highland Home murders

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Two men from Ramer, Ala., pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease Tuesday morning for the murders of Charles Doug Kelley and Patricia Anne Barginere last summer in Highland Home. Both Kelley and Barginere were shot with a .38 caliber pistol during a robbery at Kelley’s Grocery and Market on Aug. 27, 2008.

John Lewis Thomas, Jr., and Antonio Jamar McNear appeared before acting Circuit Judge John Karrh in the Crenshaw County courthouse to hear the charges against them.

The pair entered the not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease pleas to three counts of capital murder, one count of attempted murder, and one count of robbery in the first degree.

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“The state has already asked for mental evaluations for both of them,” Asst. District Attorney Levi Nichols said.

Defense attorneys also asked for Thomas and McNear to receive youthful offender status, since Thomas was 20 and McNear was 19 at the time of the murders. However, Judge Karrh denied those motions.

Wayne Carter, defense attorney for McNear, said that he had not received several reports and certain items requested from the prosecution as of yet.

Nichols said that since the ABI was involved, there was a lot of “backlog.”

“That’s a glaring defect, and you need to get that,” Judge Karrh said.

The judge gave the prosecution 30 days to get the requested items to Carter.

Family members of the victims were present in the courtroom Tuesday and softly cried as the charges were read to both suspects.

Both Thomas and McNear have been arraigned and now await trial in November. If convicted, they could face life in prison, life without parole, or the death penalty. They could also receive an additional 20 years to life for the robbery charges.