Trials begin in 2017, 2021 homicide cases

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Doors to the large courtroom on the third floor of the Cullman County Courthouse, seen on Monday, June 24, 2024 (Lauren Estes for The Cullman Tribune)
Doors to the large courtroom on the third floor of the Cullman County Courthouse, seen on Monday, June 24, 2024 (Lauren Estes for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Jury selection got underway Monday, June 24, 2024, in the trial of William Thomas Maddux, 33, of Cullman County, in the 2017 shooting death of his stepfather, and jurors heard opening arguments in the reckless homicide trial of Tyler Jacob Guthery, 28, of Cullman County, for a 2021 crash that killed one person and injured another

William Thomas Maddux

William Thomas Maddux wears a padded helmet in his 2018 booking photo following an alleged self-inflicted injury. (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

Maddux was indicted in the Nov. 12, 2017, death of his stepfather Perry Shoemake. According to the indictment, Maddux “did intentionally cause the death of another person, to-wit: Perry Shoemake, by shooting him in the head and face with a gun.” 

Maddux’s defense team in court documents indicated plans to claim self-defense.

Following the shooting of Shoemake, police found Maddux with a non-fatal, allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. The wound left Maddux with post-traumatic epilepsy, for which he takes medications. 

Maddux was released on bond after arraignment, but was reincarcerated in 2020 following a single-vehicle crash for which he was charged with driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Maddux’s defense team argued that the wreck was a simple accident on a wet road, and that alleged “lethargic behavior” witnessed by law enforcement officers at the scene was a chronic condition brought on by his traumatic brain injury. Maddux’s bond was revoked.

Jury selection took place on Monday morning.  

Cullman County District Attorney Champ Crocker shared in court the definition of “burden of proof” and how it describes the standard that a party seeking to prove a fact in court must satisfy to have that fact legally established. He said there are different standards for different circumstances.

According to the American Bar Association, the importance of creating a jury pool is to show people who can’t put aside their own opinions, people who can’t go by the evidence, who have political views to be in favor of the defendant – can and will be removed from jury pool.

Opening arguments are expected Tuesday morning.

Tyler Jacob Guthery

Tyler Jacob Guthery (Cullman County Sheriff’s Office)

Tyler Jacob Guthery was indicted for the Feb. 20, 2021, death of Rebecca Young Erby, according to court documents, for allegedly “striking the vehicle she was operating with the vehicle defendant Tyler Jacob Guthery was operating while under the influence” of one or more drugs including methamphetamines, amphetamines, and marijuana.” Also injured in the crash was David Helton, for which Guthery was additionally charged.

Guthery faces five charges:

  • Reckless manslaughter
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Second-degree assault
  • Driving under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Failure to yield right of way

Guthery was initially released on bond, but his bond was revoked in June 2022 following allegations that  “Defendant has violated the terms and conditions of his bond in the instant case by continuing to use illicit substances in violation of condition of his bond” after a failed drug test.

As late as Monday morning the defense filed motions to exclude evidence based on conversations between Guthery and Dr. Scott Warner, who serves as medical director of Cullman Fire Rescue and Cullman EMS, and as a tactical team medic with the Cullman Police Department. Warner treated Guthery at the crash scene, and accompanied him to the hospital. Attorneys argued that Warner failed to identify himself as a law enforcement officer before questioning Guthery, and that statements made by the defendant were used to obtain a search warrant in violation of his constitutional rights.  Cullman County Circuit Court Judge Martha Williams issued a finding last week that Warner was acting not as a law enforcement officer, but in his capacity as medical director of Cullman Fire Rescue.

Jury selection concluded and opening arguments were heard Monday afternoon.

Both cases will continue on Tuesday, June 25.

Editor’s note: A quote attributed to the DA was a collection of information released during trial then expanded upon using clarification through the American Bar Association.