HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s a Huntsville murder case that’s made headlines because at first, the wrong man was charged in the deadly shooting.
On Thursday, the new suspect arrested in the killing went before a judge.
Marcus McCarver made his way to his preliminary hearing at the Madison County Courthouse on crutches.
That’s because Huntsville police say he was shot in the ankle at during a deadly incident in March.
It happened on March 20, 2019 on Madison Pike at the Brixworth at Bridge Street Apartments.
Austin Rich, 19, was shot and killed at the complex.
Huntsville police say Rich’s girlfriend had her own gun and fired at the suspect after her boyfriend was fatally wounded, injuring the suspect as he ran away, stumbling into bushes.
Initially, the wrong man was charged in the case and he was released from jail after proving that he wasn’t in Huntsville when the crime happened. The evidence included a gas station receipt, surveillance images out of Georgia, and a school check-in log around the time of the shooting.
Physical evidence led to McCarver being charged with capital murder.
Investigators testified that a bloody leaf found near the scene matched McCarver’s DNA. They also told the judge that nearby surveillance cameras captured his car.
On the stand, investigators said McCarver gave them several versions of what happened, but ultimately confessed, saying the victim owed him money for drugs. His attorney, Bruce Gardner, believes McCarver acted in self-defense.
“My client, at least in the second statement, said that there was a struggle over the weapon at the doorway. Obviously, it was a drug deal. It’s all about drug deals going on and everything like that and a drug debt. We can talk all around it, but that’s what it was,” Gardner said.”
Investigator Julian Johnson, a major crimes homicide investigator for HPD, testified during the hearing that Rich was shot in the left chest and one time in the leg. Rich’s girlfriend said they were coming out of the apartment around 7 AM. He was taking her to work
They were walking out into hallway when she said someone came from the around the corner and pushed her out of the way. She heard two gunshots and ran away.
She had a gun in her purse and ran back to check on Rich. She ended up exchanging gunfire with the suspect and thought she shot the man because she saw him fall down and then she ran away again.
According to police, a silver Nissan Altima pulled through a nearby park to pick up McCarver.
Two other tenants and three cable workers at a church heard the gunshots. Rich’s girlfriend took part in a photo lineup and picked out Demorris Lauderdale as the offender. He was arrested in Atlanta. HPD was contacted by his attorney who said they had evidence Lauderdale was in Georgia at the time of the shooting, providing video and still photos of him.
“It was proven to be true. He was released from jail several days later,” Johnson stated on the stand. He added that there is a physical resemblance between Lauderdale and McCarver and Lauderdale’s drivers license was found at the scene in one of the bedrooms of the apartment, but he had nothing to do with it.
A blood trail was left by the suspect and biological evidence from a bloody leaf came back to McCarver, the investigator testified. In the apartment where Rich lived with his girlfriend, large stacks of money were missing.
When police tracked McCarver down, he was on crutches with a boot on his foot. He told them he had been shot. During an interview with investigators, he provided two different stories.
He admitted that he was shot on March 20 at the apartment complex. McCarver said he was Rich’s supplier for his marijuana.
Rich bought two pounds of marijuana from him, and money was exchanged, but Rich still owed him $500.
When McCarver went to pick up his money that morning, he said he saw three guys and saw Rich get shot by one of them. McCarver said they saw him and also shot him in the leg. He saw his foot handing. He told police that one of the guys grabbed him by the neck and put the gun to his head and said they should kill him, but one of the others said they got what they came for and left.
McCarver named the three men and put it all in a written statement.
He said the three men threatened his life and his family so he didn’t go to a local hospital out of fear. He drove to Jackson hospital in Montgomery.
At the end of the interview, investigators asked McCarver if he had anything else he wanted to say.
At that point, Johnson said McCarver told them that the whole story about three men was not true and admitted to shooting Rich.
He said he went to collect his money and when he confronted Rich that morning, Rich pulled a gun.
At first, McCarver said they were struggling over Rich’s gun and that he shot him with Rich’s gun, but later said that during the struggle, he was able to stick his hand in his pocket and reach his revolver and shot Rich through his pants.
He indicated to police that he threw the gun in a dumpster in Montgomery at the hospital and got rid of his clothes too.
Johnson said home surveillance footage from a resident captured McCarver’s car at the park and on another camera, his car is seen stopping and McCarver getting out to swap seats with another man.
Bruce Gardner talked about the initial mix-up with suspects, saying: “The star witness identifies some guy out of a lineup and unfortunately for that guy, he gets picks up over in Atlanta and extradited to Alabama and he’s innocent.”
Gardner added that this client’s take is that the armed encounter was initiated by Rich.
“My client, at least in the second statement, said that there was a struggle over the weapon at the doorway. Obviously, it was a drug deal. It’s all about drug deals going on and everything like that and a drug debt. We can talk all around it, but that’s what it was,” he added. “The second version is closer to what the physical facts will show. I wish he had said that first because he’s really got nothing to hide.”
My client, at least in the second statement, said that there was a struggle over the weapon at the doorway. Obviously, it was a drug deal. It’s all about drug deals going on and everything like that and a drug debt. We can talk all around it, but that’s what it was.
The judge found probable cause for the case to move forward. Next, it will be presented to a grand jury.
Family members on both sides of the case were in the courtroom for the hearing.