Bush sentenced to life after 2018 Mount murder conviction

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Circuit Judge Charles “Lex” Short sentenced Christopher Bradley Bush, 48, of McKenzie to life in prison on March 30 following Bush’s January conviction for a 2018 murder.

Short handed down the sentence after Assistant District Attorney Nikki Stephens of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court requested Bush be sentenced under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act. Bush, who had two prior felony convictions – one for assault in the first degree and one for possession of Ecstasy, was convicted on Jan. 26 for the 2018 murder of Joshua James “JJ” Mount at Hazelet Bridge in Covington County near the Butler County line.

“There were so many law enforcement officers, forensic scientists, and key witnesses that gave us background information that allowed us to pull this case together,” Stephens said. “It takes many moving parts working in rhythm to bring cases to a successful prosecution. We wish to express our thanks to each person who played a role in the investigation or trial, no matter how large or small, to the jury, and to the victim’s family for believing in how we work and that we would, in fact, get here, despite the delays. It is a team effort, and I will always believe ours is one of the best.”

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District Attorney Walt Merrell, who prosecuted the case with Stephens, said the case had been five years from beginning to sentencing.

“Bradley Bush’s conviction and sentencing brings long-awaited closure to the family of JJ Mount,” Merrell said. “This was the oldest murder case on our docket and we are glad to see it finally come to a conclusion.”

Bush and three others – Joseph Vernon Armstrong, 77, Tammy Armstrong Bush, 40, and Jonathon Alan Bush, 34 – all of McKenzie, were charged in the case. Under Alabama law, any accomplice to a crime is as guilty as the person primarily responsible for the crime. Each of the four were convicted for their involvement and sentenced based on varying levels of culpability.

Vernon Armstrong pled guilty in August 2022 to murder and was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. At 77 years old, this sentence could mean life for Armstrong, Merrell noted.

Tammy Bush also pled guilty in August 2022 and was sentenced to 10 years in the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Jonathon Bush, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit assault in the first degree, was sentenced to five years and granted probation.

The four were charged for the murder after a 911 dispatch on August 3, 2018 led law enforcement to the Hazelet Bridge area where they discovered Mount’s deceased body with a gunshot wound to the head. 

Statements from defendants and witnesses revealed Jessica Bush and Mount were accused of stealing Armstrong’s Corvette and Bradley Bush’s truck. Further testimony revealed that on the night of the murder, Tammy learned that Jessica and Mount were stuck in the mud in Bradley’s truck at the bridge. Ultimately, Bradley Bush and Armstrong traveled to the wooded area, where Bush shot Mount in the head.

Merrell pointed out the community had expressed views on the convictions, alleging the four were treated unfairly.

“There has been much community talk about how ‘unfair’ these defendants have been treated, or about how the court system has ruined their lives,” Merrell said. “I suppose the Bush family is entirely oblivious to the aftermath their actions created for the Mount daily, nor do they care. When you lie in wait to kill someone, you should expect there are consequences.

“For the last nearly five years, we have heard time and time again how these four defendants are upstanding citizens and meant no harm. That simply is not – cannot – be true when you orchestrate a murder, and lie in wait for someone. Neither our office nor Mount’s family has ever contended that JJ was a saint. Rather, he was an addict, deep in the throes of addiction.  He and Jessica both made bad decisions, but they weren’t decisions that warranted Mount’s murder. Mount made those bad decisions together with Jessica, but the Bush family didn’t seek to coordinate her execution. Fact is, though, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ We can’t allow our society to reduce itself down to the point that the Bushes reduced themselves to. We are better than that, I pray. Justice has been served. But justice won’t bring JJ Mount back to his son or his family.”