Four charged for Decatur murders during crime spree plead not guilty

Updated: Dec. 19, 2016 at 2:02 PM CST
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DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - All four suspects charged for a Decatur crime spree in which two men were shot and killed pleaded not guilty to all eleven counts in the grand jury indictments against each of them during their arraignment hearings Monday.

Two pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Joseph Cowan, his brother Cedric Cowan, Cortez Mitchell and Amani Goodwin
are accused of the shooting deaths of 27-year-old Anselmo Antonio Hernandez-Lopez and 25-year-old Joshua Davis.

Investigators say the murders happened as the four committed several crimes, including a series of armed robberies, and that they fired multiple rounds into two homes along the way.

Each suspect is charged with three counts of capital murder, six counts of armed robbery in the first degree, one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling and one count of shooting into an unoccupied dwelling.

After a Morgan County District Attorney's Office assistant prosecutor read the eleven-count indictment, the suspects each pleaded not guilty through their attorneys. Mitchell and Goodwin both pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Authorities say Hernandez-Lopez was killed during one of the alleged robberies on Albert Street on the night of May 15 in 2015. The victim's friend told police he and Hernandez-Lopez were forced to the ground and gunpoint and that he fled when the shooting happened.

The next morning, a passerby discovered a body at a pavilion near Wilson-Morgan Park, later identified as Joshua Davis. Decatur Police investigators say Davis was also robbed by the suspects.

In November, Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell denied the youthful offender status applications made by each of the suspects. That means prosecutors can pursue the death penalty against the oldest at the time of the alleged crimes he is convicted for capital murder.

The three other suspects can face a maximum of life in prison without parole, and the jury must be given another sentencing option upon conviction. In Alabama, judges decide sentences after juries make recommendations.

Joseph Cowan was 20 when the alleged murders happened. Cedric Cowan and Mitchell were both 16 and Goodwin was 17.  Anyone younger than 18 cannot receive the death penalty.

Defense attorneys for each suspect have 60 days to file motions. No trial dates have been set.

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