Friday, September 14, 2007

Death penalty possible in Hinton murder

By Don Fletcher
Progress staff writer

September 14, 2007

Murder suspect Robert De­zire Szymanski could become only the second Autauga County defendant in 80 years to receive the death penalty if he is con­victed of the May 29 murder of Prattville resident John R. Hin­ton Jr.

Randall Houston, district at­torney for the 19th Judicial Cir­cuit, indicated Wednesday that his office is considering wheth­er or not to ask a jury to sentence the Florida transient to death if he is found guilty of beating the retired interior designer to death.

"I feel that this is an offense deserving of the ultimate penal­ty," Houston said. "But we have to have a really strong case in or­der to seek the death penalty. I understand that the (Prattville) police have a pretty good case, but I'll have to see all the files. As soon as the police complete their investigation and get all their paperwork together, I'll look at it and go from there."

Hinton's body was discov­ered June 11 by a relative who found him, his hands and feet bound, lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of his North Northington Street residence. An autopsy determined that the victim was killed by one of two blows to his head from a blunt object. Police investigators re­covered evidence that tied Szy­manski to the scene of the brutal homicide.

Agents of the U.S. Marshal's Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force and officers of the Birmingham Police Department took the suspect into custody Sept. 7 after he tried to cash a stolen check at a Birmingham bank. City detectives went there late Friday and formally ar­rested Szymanski on murder and felony theft charges.

The fugitive had been sought throughout the state since evi­dence tied him to Hinton's car, which was found in a police im­pound lot in Birmingham short­ly after discovery of the 66-year-old man's body. A war­rant was obtained charging him first-degree theft of the vehicle, but he apparently remained hid­den among that city's homeless population for nearly two months before he was spotted July 18 while trying to cash a stolen check there.

Police announced in late July that they had also obtained a warrant charging Szymanski with murder.

A U.S. Marshal reported last weekend that Szymanski had used a stolen driver's license and other stolen documents to cash stolen checks at several Birmingham-area banks during the time he evaded authorities.

On Wednesday, PPD investi­gator Chris Eldridge formally served a warrant upgrading the charges against Szymanski to capital murder, one of the few crimes for which the death pen­alty may be sought, and he was granted his initial hearing be­fore a judge.

Circuit Clerk Whit Moncrief said Thursday that the Florida drifter showed no emotion when the warrant was served upon him and he was informed that he would no longer be eligible for bail.

"He had no reaction at all," Moncrief said. "He asked that an attorney be appointed for him, and he is in the process of com­pleting the paperwork for that. Once an attorney is appointed, the process will start."

Moncrief, who was elected in 2000, said he doesn't remember the last time prosecutors asked for the death penalty in an Au­tauga County case.

"I can't remember the last time that happened," the circuit clerk said. "I have not had a death penalty case in the six and a half years I have been in of­fice."

A Web site maintained by the Alabama Department of Correc­tions indicates that there are presently no inmates from Au­tauga County who are awaiting execution. The last Autauga County defendant executed by the state was Sam Hall, who was put to death in 1927, according to the DOC site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

God rest johns soul he was a very good man and he will be always BE loved and missed I JUST HOPE AND PRAY THAT ROBERT GETS RIGHT WITH THE LORD BUT ON THE OTHER HAND I PRAY THAT HE GETS THE SAME AS POOR OLD JOHN