The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 23, 2013

BREAKING: Murderer to go free after only 11 years in prison

ATHENS — An Athens man once sentenced to 23 years in prison for his part in a 2002 murder-for-hire will be freed after serving only half that time in prison.

Under a plea agreement reached by defense attorney Harlan Mitchell and Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones, Anthony “Andy” Houston Dugger, 38, will soon be released after serving only 11 years in prison, according to Jones and jail records.

Dugger will remain on supervised probation in Limestone County for three more years, the district attorney said.

Dugger admitted conspiring with Melissa Jarrett of Athens and Chad Reece of Elkmont in the November 2002 murder of Melissa’s husband, Shane Jarrett.

Jones and Mitchell reached the agreement because of a due-process claim by the defense and because of the wishes of the victim’s father.

“After considering the wishes of the victim’s father, a plea agreement was entered where in Dugger withdrew his plea of mental disease or defect and pled guilty to murder,” Jones said. “He received a 20-year sentence and was given credit for the 11 years he has been incarcerated. The sentence was split and the remaining time will be served on supervised probation.”

Shane’s father, Waylon Jarrett Sr., swore in an affidavit to the court that he supported the plea agreement. That affidavit read, in part, “Chad Christopher Reece was the person who shot and killed my son. However, this was at the direction of my then daughter-in-law, Melissa Kay Freeman Jarrett. Anthony Houston Dugger was also charged and convicted of the murder of my son ... It was Dugger who, when confronted with the alleged conspiracy of the murder of my son, came to police and confessed as to each person’s involvement. Had it not been for Dugger, I would have never, ever learned of what truly happened to my son …”

Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson had this to say about Dugger’s early release:

“The Athens Police presented strong evidence that supported charging all three with capital murder,” Johnson said. “The three chose not to risk a capital murder conviction and pleaded guilty to murder. We were satisfied with two of the defendants getting life and one getting 23 years. It is our opinion that Dugger was as much a part of the murder plot as the two serving life sentences. I have a tough stance on violent crime and would have preferred he serve his full sentence.”

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