MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – In September of 1996, the murders of four young men rocked the Huntsville area. Now, crews are tearing down the home where those notorious murders happened.
The so-called ‘cell phone murders’ took place on September 25, 1996. A jury determined Nick Acklin and two others, Joey Wilson and Corey Johnson, held seven people at gunpoint for nearly two hours, assaulting, torturing and humiliating them. Acklin and Wilson opened fire, killing four people and emptying 19 rounds. It was all over a stolen cell phone.
The house was across from Providence Main on Highway 72. It’s likely you’ve seen it next to the Hiley dealership as you cross into Huntsville city limits.
But Tuesday, crews were working on knocking down the last of the home, and starting to haul it away.
Why is it being demolished?
WHNT News 19 is still working on the answer to that question.
The home has been there since 1957 when it was built, and after the murders it has been unoccupied. It’s been two decades since that night.
Now the property is for sale or lease, according to a sign out front. WHNT News 19 contacted the company in charge of the property’s future, The Shopping Center Group, to find out why the owner is having it torn down. Our calls and email were not returned Tuesday.
We learned the current owner is a group called Global Property University 2, LLC and have been unable to get in touch with that company.
Meanwhile, people are starting to notice the vacant home that is now on its way to becoming a vacant lot.
Rob Broussard, Madison County District Attorney, was a prosecutor in the cell phone murder case. He says demolition can erase the view, but won’t fully eradicate the memory.
“Every time I glanced at the house, I thought about the case,” he said. “Horrible tragedy occurred in that house. You think about four young people, just barely out of their teenage years, who haven’t been with us for the last 20 years. Every time I look at the house, it had a certain sadness about it.”
He didn’t know the home was going to be demolished.
“It’s probably for the best,” he said. “For some, it will be forgotten…Time marches on,” he said.
Now it’s gone, Broussard wants the focus turned to the two death row inmates convicted of the killings. He believes it’s their turn to meet their end.
“Their day ought to come,” he said of Acklin and Wilson, who continue to appeal their case. “Their guilt could not be any more clear than what it is. And everything else is gone, but they rock on down in the penitentiary.”
Over at the Hiley dealership next to the property, employees were also surprised to see the house come down.
“I think I sent a photo to a couple of my friends this morning saying, ‘Wow, it’s finally down!'” said Megan McCahey, Marketing and Acquisition Director for Hiley Huntsville. “And for us, being right next door, it can be a nice thing.”
She said the house was the main focal point coming out of Providence Main, and she found it kind of creepy.
“You get used to it, but having the house sitting here is a constant reminder,” she said. “It ends up being a creepy story.”
McCahey said she hopes the home coming down means a new opportunity to build something there, bringing the dealership a new neighbor.
Nick Acklin and Joey Wilson are each being held at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, on death row. Each man has appealed over the years. They were each convicted of capital murder.
The third man involved in the murders, Corey Johnson, was convicted of murder and served his time.
Johnson was released from prison in September 2011. But he is now back in jail in Madison County, accused of another crime. Court records reveal Johnson is charged with capital murder in the death of Candice Wilson of Huntsville. His case is still pending. Authorities say Wilson was Joey Wilson’s sister.