Fairview man pleads guilty to felony murder, sentenced to 30 years

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John Edward Cole (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

CULLMAN – A Fairview man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony murder. Court records show that John Edward Cole, 36, entered his guilty plea earlier this month in the death of Frederick William Galin, 71. The murder occurred during the commission of a burglary at Galin’s Cullman residence in 2013.

Galin was beaten to death with a pipe wrench on Dec. 16, 2013 in his home on St. Joseph Drive in Cullman, where his body was found three days later.  After another man reported to law enforcement that Cole had sold him a 1966 Chevrolet Nova reported missing from Galin’s house, Cole and co-defendant Robert Espy, Jr. of Vinemont were arrested on Jan. 17, 2014.  Cole was charged with capital murder during burglary, capital murder and four counts of first-degree burglary, all Class A felonies. The capital murder charges carried a possible death penalty.

Espy was charged with murder, first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree theft of property and two counts of first-degree burglary.  Court records show that Espy alleged that Cole actually killed Galin, but that Espy knew about the killing, helped conceal evidence and profited from the crime by taking Galin’s property.  Under questioning, Espy stated that he had driven Cole to Galin’s house, waited while Cole went in carrying a pipe wrench, and drove Cole to Lake George, where the wrench was thrown into the water.  A Cullman County Sheriff’s Office dive team recovered the wrench from the lake on June 12, 2014.

Both men were indicted in April 2014 and remanded to the Cullman County Detention Center.

In April 2017, the Cullman County District Attorney’s Office reduced Cole’s capital murder charge to the lesser charge of felony murder, a killing committed incidental to the commission of another crime, taking the death penalty off the table. Circuit Judge Martha Williams also reduced Cole’s bond amount from $200,000 cash (which had kept him in jail since his arrest) to $75,000 property.

Cole made the new bond and left jail on April 25, 2017 to await trial, only to be rearrested on May 31, 2018 on charges of distribution of a controlled substance, unlawful possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, first-degree unlawful possession of marijuana, third-degree receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. After the new charges were filed, Williams, in a special hearing on June 1, 2018, revoked Cole’s bond.

In a plea deal on Oct. 12, 2018, Cole pled guilty to felony murder, the most serious of the modified charges against him.  In exchange for the plea, all other charges from the 2013 incident were dismissed. He was sentenced to 30 years in state prison, with credit for three years and almost six months already served.

Espy’s charges are still pending.

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