Killer convicted in ‘72 denied release by parole board

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A man convicted of murdering a Greenville man in 1971 has been denied release by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Thomas William Yelton, 72, was denied parole on Monday during a scheduled hearing in Montgomery. Yelton was convicted by a Butler County jury in May 1972 of shooting and killing 30-year-old Phillip Henderson at his residence in Greenville on December 19, 1971.

The hearing was attended by Butler County District Attorney John Andrews, Sheriff Kenny Harden, representatives with the Attorney General’s office, as well as family members of the victim, said Harden.

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“I think it had a big impact, us being there, on the board’s decision to deny him parole,” said Harden.

Harden said Yelton would next be eligible for parole in 2013.

The murder of Henderson was a shock to the citizens of Butler County, said Andrews, who worked on the case with then-District Attorney J.O. Bryan.

The murder trial, itself, was what Andrews called the “biggest case ever in Butler County.”

“Every seat was filled,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”

Yelton was charged with murder and kidnapping because he fled the state with Henderson’s wife after the shooting. He returned to Greenville from South Carolina, where police arrested him at the Holiday Inn.

Henderson’s wife told investigators that Yelton had disposed of the gun used in the murder in a reservoir in Greenville, South Carolina.

Naval divers recovered the weapon, said Andrews.

“He (Yelton) was shocked when we submitted it as evidence at the trial,” said Andrews.

Yelton is serving a life sentence at the Hamilton Prison for the Aged and Infirm, said Andrews.

“It think he’ll get what we call ‘pine box justice,’ said Andrews. “I think he’ll end up dying in prison.”