Second trial begins for 2008 Highland Home slayings

Published 5:25 pm Monday, August 20, 2012

The trial of Antonio Jamar McNear, one of two men accused of the murder of Charles Kelley and Pat Barginere at Kelley’s Grocery and Market in 2008, began Monday morning.

McNear had six indictments, including three counts of capital murder, two counts of first degree robbery and a charge of attempted murder.

On Aug. 27, 2008, Kelley and Barginere were shot and killed during a robbery in Highland Home, and McNear and John Lewis Thomas, Jr. were arrested and charged with the crime.

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Thomas was brought to trial in late February, found guilty on all six charges and sentenced to life in prison.

McNear has pleaded “not guilty” to all charges.

Following final jury selection Monday morning, Assistant District Attorney Steve Townes said during opening arguments that the State of Alabama will bring 17 witnesses to the stand, including experts, investigators and eyewitnesses.

Townes also said that accomplices are held equally responsible under the law.

“At the end of this trial, we will ask you to find Mr. McNear guilty,” he said.

Defense attorney Susan James said that some facts about the case will not be disputed.

“There is no question that numerous tragedies occurred that day,” she said. “It’s incontrovertible that they [Kelley and Barginere] lost their lives for nothing.”

However, James said that Thomas was the one that caused their death, and painted a picture of McNear as someone who came along, not knowing what would happen.

“It was an impulsive and irrational act by Thomas,” James said. “There was no prior agreement between the two.”

James said that the evidence would show that Thomas held a grudge against Kelley’s Grocery because of a worthless check written by Thomas’s now-deceased mother in 2005.

James also said that following the murders, McNear was afraid of Thomas, who “still had three rounds in the gun,” and that McNear cooperated with law enforcement after his arrest.

“At the end of this case, I will ask you to find him not guilty,” she said.

After lunch, the State began calling witnesses, including Betty Kelley, Steven Jackson and Gary Shirley.

Kelley is the mother of Charles Kelley and owner of the store who lives next door and came to investigate after hearing gunshots.

Jackson and Shirley are both employees of Quint-Mar Water Authority and were among the first to arrive at the scene.

Kelley, Jackson and Shirley all also testified at Thomas’s trial in February.

The E-911 tapes of the emergency calls were also played, along with testimony from the dispatcher, coroner Ronnie Turner and a state forensics employee who transported the bodies from Crenshaw County to Montgomery.

The trial will continue on Tuesday morning.