Espy, Jr. pleads guilty to murder, Garner convicted of attempted murder

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Robert Gene Espy, Jr. (left) was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Anthony Allen Garner (right) is now awaiting sentencing. (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

CULLMAN, Ala. – On Friday, Aug. 9, three days ahead of a trial scheduled on the Aug. 12, 2019 docket, Robert Gene Espy, Jr., 39, of Vinemont pleaded guilty to felony murder (murder committed during the commission of another crime, in this case burglary) in the Dec. 2013 death of Frederick William Galin, 71. Espy was a co-defendant with John Edward Cole, who was considered to be the person who actually killed Galin during a burglary. Cole pleaded guilty to felony murder last year and received a 30-year sentence.  

Galin was beaten to death with a pipe wrench 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 Espy, Jr. were arrested 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, Jr. 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, Jr. 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, Jr. 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.

Espy, Jr. and Cole were indicted in 2014. Espy, Jr.’s plea brings Cullman’s oldest outstanding murder case to an end. Two cases, Crystial Ballenger and Jeffrey Hugh Brown, are tied to the death of Hoss Benham, 1, which occurred earlier in 2013, but Ballenger and Brown were not indicted until 2015.

With Espy, Jr.’s plea to murder and an agreement to testify against Cole should his case ever have to come back before the court, all other charges were dropped.

Espy, Jr. was sentenced to 25 years in state prison, to begin immediately and with credit for 446 days already served in jail.  

Anthony Allen Garner convicted of attempted murder

On Tuesday, after a short trial, Anthony Allen Garner, 49, was convicted of attempted murder, discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, menacing and reckless endangerment from an incident following a domestic dispute with Daniel Frasier in Oct. 2017.

According to court documents, Garner used his vehicle to ram Frasier’s vehicle as Frasier was leaving Shady Grove Church on County 783, and then fired a shot into the Frasier’s vehicle. Garner applied for immunity from prosecution under Alabama’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but was denied after a hearing in 2018.

Garner’s sentencing hearing has been set for Nov. 1. He is currently being held without bond.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com