Investigators discuss statements from people who reportedly saw Michelle Whitton alive the day she was reported missing
SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) – Friday marks a full week of testimony in the murder trial of Barry Whitton in Jackson County.
He is charged with the murder of his first wife, Michelle Whitton, in 1997. Her body was found buried in a shallow grave in DeKalb County weeks later, her car, before that.
Retired ABI criminal investigator Mack Atkinson took the stand again, continued from Thursday. Questions revolved around statements made by people who said they saw Michelle the morning she was reported missing. Atkinson testified Thursday he didn’t consider the information given in one of those statements to be relevant, because it didn’t fit into the timeline investigators had, and he felt it was a mistake. Atkinson testified that about three years after Michelle’s body was found, one of the people who gave him a statement regarding seeing Michelle told him in conversation that he “made a mistake.”
Testimony revealed in cross-examination that a statement was given in the investigation, saying someone had seen Michelle Sunday morning at the store, that Michelle was pulling out and almost collided with the individual, was wearing a pink sweat suit with a flower on it, and she stopped and waved. The defense asked Atkinson if he discredited this statement, and Atkinson testified he thought that person had made a mistake as well.
The defense asked if Atkinson had called one of those individuals a few years later, in 2000. The defense asked Atkinson if he was trying to get that person to change their story, and Atkinson replied he wasn’t, he was looking for clarification.
The State called current Alabama State Trooper Wes Corbitt to the stand, a former police officer with the town of Section.
Corbitt testified he took the missing persons report for Michelle Whitton. He told the court he spoke to Barry Whitton, who said Michelle had left that morning to buy breakfast and hadn’t returned.
Corbitt testified he took that report at 1:15 in the afternoon at Michelle’s parents’ house. He said Barry Whitton was calm and indifferent, and didn’t really appear upset. Corbitt said after he took the report he took it to the Sheriff’s Office and then started checking on the road up the mountain to see if she had crashed.
Testimony later revealed while he was on patrol Corbitt saw Whitton driving south on County Road 19 in a small white pickup before he took the missing persons report at Michelle’s parents’ house later that day.
The State asked if he saw anyone else in the car, to which Corbitt replied no. The State asked if he saw a child’s car seat in the passenger seat, and Corbitt said he did not, but he did see what looked like a blanket or a sleeping bag in the passenger seat. Corbitt said he later reported what he had seen.
The defense asked if he had known Whitton previously. Corbitt said he had seen him previously, and knew of him.
Barry Whitton’s lawyers asked if it was cold that day, to which Corbitt replied he was sure it was.
The State called forensic science consultant John Kilbourn to the stand. He testified he was submitted evidence that came from the Whitton’s home.
That evidence included fibers that came from the grave where Michelle Whitton’s body had been found, and fibers from the path leading to the grave. Kilbourn said he also got soil samples, fibers from rugs in the Whitton’s home, duct tape, a wash cloth, hand towel, Michelle’s pink sweatshirt that had duct tape on it found with her body, and a shovel.
Testimony revealed the fibers found at the scene were not constant to items found at the home.
Kilbourn testified additional items in March were turned in, and that included a vacuum cleaner, a sleeping bag, a coat, and fibers taken from two plastic bags from the laundry room of the Whitton’s home.
Kilbourn said he compared the fibers found at the burial scene to those items and he said they did not match.
The State asked what the fibers found at the scene might be consistent with. Kilbourn responded those particular fibers are usually consistant with filler material, like that found in pillows, sleeping bags, jackets, and comforters that have filler material.
Kilbourn testified that the duct tape found from the sleeve of the sweatshirt and the duct tape found at the home did not contain fingerprints that could be used and found that the two did not match.
Testimony also revealed that the soil found on the shovel and the soil found at the scene were different. The court also was told the contents of the vacuum cleaning bag did not yield any evidence.
The defense asked if chain of custody was done properly with this particular evidence, and Kilbourn testified it was.
The defense asked if Kilbourn was ever asked to examine evidence from Michelle’s car, and he said not that he knows of, and it would have been reflective in his notes.
The State called Jerry Carter to the stand. Carter told the court he has known Barry Whitton his whole life, and says he had worked for years doing tire mechanics on cars in Section. Carter said he had put tires on Whitton’s car for him about a month before Michelle went missing.
Carter testified he saw Barry Whitton the morning Michelle would be reported missing. Carter testified he passed Whitton while driving, and Whitton was driving while situated partially in both lanes.
Testimony revealed Carter knew Whitton and his truck right away, saying he had put mud grips on the back of the truck and street tires on the front several weeks prior. Carter testified he saw Whitton before ten o’clock in the morning.
The State asked Carter if he could see inside the truck, and Carter replied he did. He testified he saw something on the floorboard that was higher than the seat, but not as high as the dash, and it was covered up. The State asked Carter if he saw a car seat or a toddler in the car as Whitton had a small son, and Carter testified that he did not.
The defense asked in cross – examination if Carter contacted an official about what he had seen, and he said no, he just mentioned it to acquaintences. The defense asked if it was ever written down, and he said no. Whitton’s lawyers asked Carter how long it took for the two cars to pass, and he said a couple of seconds.