CULLMAN, Ala. – Jeffery Hugh Brown, 43, of Vinemont pleaded guilty Friday to felony murder in the death of 1-year-old Hoss Benham, who died in March 2014. The charge was reduced from capital murder of a child under 14 years of age, taking the death penalty off the table.
Brown, represented by local attorneys Sara Baker and Joshua O’Neal in front of Circuit Court Judge Martha Williams, received a 40-year sentence. He will receive credit for the five years, 10 months and one day he has served in the Cullman County Detention Center.
Brown and his then girlfriend, Crystial Ballenger, Baby Hoss’ mother, were indicted Oct. 20, 2015 on charges of capital murder of a child under 14 years of age, capital murder involving sexual abuse, aggravated child abuse and sexual torture in the death of Baby Hoss, who died on his first birthday; examination of his body indicated blunt force trauma and multiple signs that he was tortured in a sexual manner.
Brown and Ballenger initially told authorities that Baby Hoss drowned in their home at Monk’s Trailer Park on U.S. Highway 31 in Vinemont, but they gave conflicting stories. Baby Hoss was pronounced dead March 11, 2014. Examinations later showed he had multiple severe injuries all over his body.
When Brown pleaded guilty to felony murder, the charges of aggravated child abuse, capital murder involving sexual abuse and sexual torture/abuse were dismissed.
Brown had received multiple continuances this year, including two due to conflicts in his attorney’s schedule.
Ballenger, represented by Melvin Hasting and Michael Haynes, has also received multiple continuances this year. In July, she submitted a handwritten request for the removal and replacement of court-appointed attorney Hasting. She remains in the Cullman County Detention Center.
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