The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 23, 2013

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



Defense claim

On Aug. 6, 2012, Dugger’s new attorney, Mitchell, filed a “post-conviction Rule 32 petition,” asking the court to set aside Dugger’s original sentence.

Mitchell raised the due-process claim over Dugger’s original plea of not guilty by mental disease or defect.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Robert Baker held a hearing on the defense’s motion.

“The hearing today was to determine whether or not his original attorney ever had a mental evaluation performed prior to the plea,” Jones said.

“Testimony was taken in court regarding the prior plea. It was apparent that Anthony Dugger was never evaluated and did not waive that defense prior to entering his guilty plea. Dugger has been incarcerated since 2002 and, during that time, has been evaluated by the Department of Corrections.”

Following testimony Tuesday before the judge, the state, through Jones, conceded the point in the petition and the original conviction was set aside.

The murder

Athens Police detectives determined Dugger and Melissa Jarrett were lovers when Shane was killed in January 2002 after returning home from a false call to his wrecker service. Shane was shot when he walked down the hallway of his Wheeler Street mobile home, detectives said. His wife was inside the home at the time. Police later arrested Dugger and Reece of Elkmont in connection with the crime. Dugger confessed that he made the false call to the wrecker service and that Melissa and Reece were also involved.

Dugger was initially charged with capital murder in the case and would have faced the death penalty or life without parole if he had been convicted on that charge.

He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of murder in February 2007 and was facing a sentence of 20 years to life.

Under a plea agreement between Dugger’s former attorney, Dan Totten, and then-District Attorney Kristi Valls, Dugger was sentenced to serve only 23 years in prison because of his willingness to testify against his co-conspirators.

Valls told The News Courier in 2007, “While he (Dugger) was in jail, he told us Melissa was involved, and (he) agreed to be wired while making a phone call to her. After that phone conversation, she confessed.”

Melissa and Reece pleaded guilty and are serving life sentences for their roles in the murder.

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