Madison County DA’s office will seek death penalty in four trials in 2016

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- For the first time in nearly six years the Madison County District Attorney’s office will soon bring a death penalty case to trial.

And not just one. The current court docket shows four cases set for 2016 in which prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

The last person to receive a death sentence in Madison County was Benito Albarran, who was sentenced in 2008 for the 2005 killing of Huntsville police officer Daniel Golden. Albarran hanged himself in prison in April.

The last trial that included a possible death sentence was the 2010 case of Kenneth Shipp, who was charged with killing Huntsville police officer Eric Freeman in 2007. Shipp was convicted, but the during the penalty phase the defense argued that he was so impaired by alcohol and pills he didn’t realize what he was doing when the pulled the trigger.

The jury agreed, voting 9-3 to sentence him to life in prison without parole. Then-Madison County Circuit Judge Bruce Williams followed that recommendation and sentenced to Shipp to life without parole.

The first case death penalty case next year is set for early February.

John Clayton Owens

John Clayton Owens

John Clayton Owens, 32, has a Feb. 8 trial date. He is charged with killing his 91-year-old neighbor, Doris Richardson, who investigators said was choked to death. The charge alleges Owens also burglarized her home.

The killing took place on Aug. 26, 2011, at a home on Bide-A-Wee Drive, near Five Points.

Stephen Marc Stone with one of his attorneys, Brian Clark. (Photo: Gregg Stone, WHNT News 19)

Stephen Marc Stone with one of his attorneys, Brian Clark. (Photo: Gregg Stone, WHNT News 19)

The current docket also shows a death penalty trial set for two weeks later for Stephen Marc Stone. That date is almost certain to be moved, as two attorneys involved in the Owens case are also on opposing sides in the Stone case.

Stone, 36, is charged with the Feb. 24, 2013 murders of his wife, Krista Stone and their 7-year-old son Zachary. Huntsville Police Department investigators said Stone turned himself into Leeds police the day after the killings and confessed to the crime.

The next death penalty case is scheduled for April 18.

Richard Burgin, Jr. (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

Richard Burgin, Jr. (Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections)

Richard Burgin, 52, is charged with the fatal stabbing of two brothers, Anthony Jackson, 76, and Terry Jackson, 69 who volunteered at the food pantry at West Huntsville United Methodist Church. The killings took place on May 21, 2013.

The fourth death penalty case is set for Sept. 12.

Ervin Akeem Tolbert (Photo: HPD)

Ervin Akeem Tolbert (Photo: HPD)

Ervin Akeem Tolbert, who will turn 21 in early January, is facing the death penalty in the beating death of his 76-year-old neighbor, Wade Wharton. Wharton was killed at his Nassau Drive home early in the morning of Jan. 15, 2014.