LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WHNT) – Testimony started Tuesday morning in the trial of Zakkawanda Zawumba Moss, one of two men charged in a string of murders that happened a year ago in Lincoln and Madison counties.
The trial began after almost a 40-minute delay. Judge Forest Durard apologized citing pre-trial issues that had to be resolved. Jurors were officially sworn in at 9:55.
The jury of 16 is comprised of 5 men and 11 women. Judge Durard began with opening instructions for the jury describing the indictment and the charges of premeditated murder.
Durard made heavy emphasis to jurors they may not view any media coverage of the trial or talk about the trial until after the verdict with anyone including family our friends.
Moss’ attorney had earlier filed a motion for a change of venue, citing media coverage as a possible influence on the case.
District Attorney Robert Carter read the 6 count indictment against Moss to jurors.
Moss, 35, of New Market, Ala. is charged with six counts of first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Henry Lee Burrell, 36, of Fayetteville, Tenn. is also charged in the case and will be tried separately on February 6.
Moss and Burrell are charged with the murders of Amber McCaulley, Chabreya Campbell and her unborn child, and Campbell’s 1-year-old son, Rashad Rico Ragland. They were found dead in a home in Lincoln County on October 22, 2012. That same evening, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office responded to 4 Fox Wood Drive in Fayetteville and found the body of Jessica Leigh Brown, 22. Her 2-month-old baby was not harmed.
Warren Vincent Crutcher, 24, was found dead the next day in Hazel Green. He lived at both Fayetteville homes where the Tennessee victims were because he had children with Campbell and Brown.
District Attorney Carter said Moss was involved in the drug trade; that he robbed and murdered Warren Crutcher in attempt to locate money, drugs and guns. Carter says Moss then tortured and murdered the other victims – acquaintances of Crutcher’s – to try to obtain information about the whereabouts of said money, drugs and guns.
The state has a substantial amount of evidence and proof to show to the jury, Carter says. Those will include videos from a Wal-Mart and a gas station and much witness testimony.
Carter says evidence shows Amber McCaulley was shot while sitting in a white Hyundai Elantra, Moss then removed her body, drug her through a garage at 3264 Huntsville Highway in Lincoln County and tossed her in a closet, leaving her for dead.
“She was in the way, so the defendant killed her.”
Carter told jurors Chabreya Campbell and her unborn child were killed when Moss tied Campbell’s hands behind her back, strangled her and then drowned her in a bathtub.
Carter says evidence shows Campbell’s 16-month-old son Rashad O’Brien Ragland (Rico) died because the defendant came to Lincoln County looking for his drugs and money. Carter says Moss killed Amber, killed Chabreya, and at some point while he was there, Rico got in his way, so the defendant took his foot and stomped on him multiple times until he was dead.
He died from multiple blunt force traumas to his head. He had no chance of surviving.
Carter says Moss and co-defendant Henry Burrell wiped down the ‘Huntsville Highway house’ then headed to the home of Jessica Brown at 4 Fox Wood Drive in Fayetteville. Carter says Brown was Brown was mudered in the same manner as Campbell – strangled to death and left in a bathtub.
After Brown’s murder Carter says Moss and Burrell shoot Warren Crutcher in the back of the head 3 times before driving to B. H. Reaves Road in north Madison County to dump Crutcher’s body in a secluded, wooded area.
“The defendant moved Crutcher’s body to make it appear as if he was involved in the murders,” Carter said.
Crutcher has two children – Vinnie Crutcher Jr. and Jaden Crutcher. He had one child, Vinnie Crutcher, with Chabreya who lived at the Huntsville Highway House, and Jessica Brown had Jaden at her house. Those two children were not murdered.
Rico, who was not Crutcher’s child, was murdered.
Huntsville Utilities workers happened to find Crutcher’s body.
“That’s why the defendant is sitting here,” Carter said.”The proof will show the defendant was involved in drug-dealing and the drug business with people including Henry Burrell.”
“These men had various locations that they would call their stash houses — places they hid money, dope and weapons. The defendant targeted these homes because he knew where Crutcher hid his drugs, and he knew Crutcher was successful in the drug game and was making a lot of money,” Carter said.
Moss’ Defense Attorney Hershel Koger addressed the jury only briefly with opening statements to remind them nothing they had previously heard from District Attorney Carter was evidence or proof of anything.
The first state witness called in the trial was Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder.
Blackwelder says when he received the call on October 22 he immediately headed to the home on Huntsville Highway where he was met by Lincoln County Investigator Deputy Wayne Owen who told him there were three bodies inside.
Blackwelder says when he entered the garage he saw a large blood trail that made a semi-circle trail into the utility room where the body of Amber McCaulley. He says he then entered the kitchen area where investigator Owen pointed out the body of Rico Ragland who Blackwelder says was “lying in a pool of blood in plain view.” When they walked down the hall into the bathroom Blackwelder says he saw the body of Chabreya Campbell who had been bound around her neck with her hands tied behind her back and was placed in the bathtub.
Blackwelder became emotional recounting the scene where Jessica Brown’s body was found in the bathroom. He say her 7-week-old baby was found in a separate bathroom but was unharmed.
Blackwelder became choked up because he hired Jessica Brown’s mother who is a corrections officer with his department.
Defense only crossed asking Blackwelder if he had ever been to the Fox Wood Drive location before, to which he answered no.
The state then called Lincoln County Deputy Wayne Graham to the stand.
Graham says when he arrived at the Huntsville Highway home he initially thought the trail of blood he observed inside the garage came from dogs the owners may have been fighting, as he immediately noticed a small treadmill used to for training dogs of a fighting breed.
Graham says there was plywood lying up against the entrance to a utility room where the trail of blood ended and when he shone his flashlight inside he saw the feet and then body of Amber McCaulley. Graham says he then secured the scene then waited for investigators to arrive.
WHNT News 19 will keep you updated through the trial. Follow the proceedings in our live blog.