The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 22, 2013

UPDATED: Moyers pleads not guilty; D.A. must decide on death penalty

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS — A Cullman man charged with capital murder in the Sept. 29 shooting death of 26-year-old Brandon Hydrick of Athens has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Joel Moyers, 52, appeared in court today with his attorneys, Dan Totten and Lucas Batey of Athens. However, Moyers did not speak during the proceeding.

Circuit Judge James Woodroof Jr. granted the defense more time to file additional motions and set a hearing for Feb. 19 on those motions. They needed more time, in part, while waiting for Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jim Ayers to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case. The only other option in a capital murder case is life without chance of parole.

The decision by the D.A.'s office will influence the defense's strategy, Jones told The News Courier after the hearing.

"They are trying to decide whether to have their client plead not guilty due to reason of mental defect," he said, adding that the prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty after studying the evidence and the statute.

In the mean time, Moyers remains held without bail in the Limestone County Jail. He had been free on bail following his arrest. After a Limestone County grand jury upgraded his charge from murder to capital murder, which is murder in the commission of another felony, a judge denied him bail.

On the night of the shooting, Moyers told investigators he fired a warning shot after seeing a truck on Fennel Lane occupied by brothers Brandon and Ryan Hydrick, who had been at a night-time outing and marshmallow roast with friends and got lost on the way home. Moyers, who was staying in a mobile home owned by his mother on Fennel Road, told officers he believed the Hydricks were would-be thieves. Investigators said Moyers fired into the tail of the truck not into the ground or into the air as he initially claimed.