MacNeil found guilty

The capital murder trial of Justin MacNeil, 27, ended Monday, May 21, with guilty verdicts on both counts of capital murder during the commission of a robbery and capital murder during the commission of a burglary.

MacNeil was accused in 2015 of killing Brian Beavers, 51, with a hatchet during a dispute over money that MacNeil is said to have taken from Beavers. Beavers’ body was found under a bed at his residence in Blountsville.

Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey said her office did not seek the death penalty in this case at the request of the victim’s family. MacNeil was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Following the verdict, Casey praised the Blount County Sheriff’s Office investigators in the case saying, “I appreciate the work of Investigator Lynn Chambless and Investigator Fred Cochran.” MacNeil was represented at trial by Blount County attorneys Bob Bentley and Brett King.

Another man, Clifton Ridgeway, 23, is also charged with capital murder during the commission of a burglary in the crime. His trial date has not been set.

Both defendants were actually in the custody of law enforcement before it was even known that Beavers had been killed. A state trooper was working at a road construction site on I-59 and was alerted to a report that a truck, later found to belong to Beavers, had struck another vehicle and fled the scene. The trooper located the truck and a 10-mile chase began that also involved deputies from both Etowah and St. Clair Counties. The chase ended in St. Clair County after a spike strip was deployed on the vehicle. MacNeil and Ridgeway were the truck’s occupants. It was reported that Ridgeway made a spontaneous statement at the time about the killing, which led law enforcement to go to Beavers’ home and find his body.

The two co-defendants have been held without bond since their arrests, almost. In another bizarre twist, MacNeil actually escaped from the Blount County Correctional facility on January 2, 2016. It was a short-lived freedom. He was captured at an apartment in Oneonta about eight hours after escaping. He has not been prosecuted yet for that offense.