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Michael McLemore, pictured after his bond hearing in September 2011, is was found mentally competent to stand trial for capital murder and attempted murder. | File photo
Michael McLemore, pictured after his bond hearing in September 2011, was found mentally competent to stand trial for capital murder and attempted murder. | File photo

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McLemore found competent to stand trial

Published 1:32pm Thursday, June 26, 2014

A local man accused of capital murder and attempted murder was found competent to stand trial for the alleged crimes by a Franklin County jury Thursday morning.

Michael McLemore, 28, formerly of Ruby Road in Phil Campbell, was charged with two counts of capital murder in the shooting deaths of his father and stepmother, Ricky Hodge, 56, and Connie Hodge, 59, and two counts of attempted murder in the attacks of Marcia Smith, 57, and Royce Riddle, 63.

According to reports, the alleged crimes in question took place at 7:50 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2011, at the Ruby Road trailer where McLemore was reported to live with the two couples.

After two days of hearing evidence in the mental competency trial, the jury deliberated for a little more than an hour Thursday morning before returning their verdict that McLemore is mentally competent to stand trial for the crimes.

Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said he was glad the state would be able to move forward with this case.

“This was obviously a big step forward in continuing to pursue justice for the rest of the family and others who have been affected by these crimes,” Rushing said.

“The family is pleased that they will finally have the opportunity, after almost three years, to see the person alleged to have committed these crimes stand trial and be held responsible for the actions he is charged with.”

Rushing said several roadblocks had to be overcome before the case could be presented, including McLemore’s one-year stay at Taylor Hardin Secure Mental Facility since June of last year for long-term evaluation by medical and mental health professionals.

“The long-term evaluation and this competency trial were all steps we had to go through before the case could proceed,” Rushing said.

“The family has been very patient throughout this process, and we appreciate their understanding and cooperation.”

Rushing said he believed the evidence he and Assistant DA Jeff Barksdale presented was key in this trial.

“This was the first jury trial Mr. Barksdale has participated in since becoming the assistant DA, and he did a great job with this case,” Rushing said.

“The law enforcement officers with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation also did an outstanding job gathering information and evidence in this case, especially the taped interviews that I believe were vital in proving Mr. McLemore’s competency.

“Mr. McLemore’s attorneys, Rebecca Thomason and Eddie Beason, did a great job as usual, but I believe our evidence was just too strong to disprove Mr. McLemore’s competency in this case.”

Thomason agreed that the state’s evidence was key in the verdict.

“Joey did and excellent job presenting his case, and what I believe really hurt us were the recordings where my client admitted his guilt in the crimes and actually talked to the officers who were interviewing him,” Thomason said.

“Obviously I do not think this was the correct verdict because my client doesn’t understand any of this. I think it’s tragic that the only thing he wanted to know was if he would be able to take his coloring books and crayons back with him. There’s just no understanding.

“But I appreciate the jury and their service. I’m sure this was a difficult decision for them to make.

“We will move forward in this case and I will continue to do the best job I possibly can for my client as we prepare for his capital murder trial.”

Rushing said Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey had tentatively set McLemore’s criminal trial for September, barring any complications that might arise.

“The next step will be for Mr. McLemore to return to Taylor Hardin and be evaluated to determine his mental state at the time of the alleged crime before we proceed with the trial,” Rushing said.

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said the incident that led to the capital murder and attempted murder charges was allegedly fueled by a disagreement over money between McLemore and his father.

According to reports, McLemore asked his father for money but when Ricky Hodge refused to give him any money, McLemore is accused of using a .22 caliber rifle to shoot his father near the kitchen hallway of the trailer.

Reports indicate Connie Hodge was shot while she was still in bed.

Oliver said it appeared McLemore used a claw hammer to then assault Smith and Riddle who were in a back bedroom and were awakened by the shots.

Smith and Riddle were transported to Russellville Hospital where they were treated for their injuries and later released. Oliver said McLemore admitted to his involvement in the crimes after going to a neighbor’s house about 500 feet away and calling 911.

McLemore was taken into custody when officers arrived at the scene and transported to the Franklin County Jail.

District Judge Paula McDowell denied his bond at a Sept. 12, 2011 hearing and McLemore remained at the Franklin County Jail until June 2013 when he was transferred to the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility where he has remained since that time.

McLemore faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of the capital murder charges at his trial.

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