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Grand jury indicts two for capital murder

By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
Aug. 11, 2001
A Lauderdale County grand jury has indicted two of the four men originally arrested in the shooting death of Tyrone Moffett almost three months ago.
Johnathan Ruffin, 27, of 905 Scott Mount Road in Lisman, Ala., and Morris Griggs, 31, of 1808 18th St. in Meridian, were arraigned Friday before Circuit Judge Robert Bailey.
Both pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges.
The fatal shooting occurred about 10 p.m. May 27 on Will Wright Road in Lauderdale County. Moffett's body was found beside his car, next to the open driver's door.
Three suspects were located quickly and charged.
The fourth, Ruffin, was arrested May 31 as he sat in a pick-up truck in front of the Choctaw County Courthouse. Ruffin was charged with capital murder the same charge as his indictment.
Griggs, originally charged with robbery, also was indicted for capital murder.
Other suspects
At the time all four arrests were made in the case, sheriff's investigators said there were conflicting accounts of what had happened.
Chief Deputy Mike Mitchell said new information came to light as the investigation progressed, which resulted in the grand jury declining to indict two other suspects.
Derrick Dewayne Nicholson of Lisman, Ala., was originally charged with capital murder. He was "no billed" by the grand jury, his charges were dropped and he has been released from the Lauderdale County Detention Facility.
Tyrone Tillman of Lauderdale County was originally charged as an accessory after the fact of murder. Grand jurors declined to indict him at this time, but instructed investigators to continue gathering evidence in his case for presentation to a grand jury scheduled to meet in November.
Tillman was still in custody Friday, but was eligible for bond.
New evidence
Mitchell said it is not unusual for charges against suspects to change during the course of an investigation.
The grand jury's indictment against Ruffin and Griggs affirms the panel's belief that the shooting occurred during an armed robbery. That "underlying felony" qualifies the crime as a capital murder punishable by death.
Judge Bailey asked Assistant District Attorney Dan Angero to inform him as soon as possible about whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
The trial has been set for Sept. 11.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at smonk@themeridianstar.com.