Special to the Enquirer

Judge denies youthful offender status

By Michael Wetzel  

For the Enquirer 

A defendant allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of seven people in eastern Morgan County in June 2020 was denied youthful offender status Tuesday and pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease and mental defect to the six capital murder charges he is facing. 

In front of several of the victims’ family members, Morgan Circuit Judge Stephen Brown told John Michael Legg, 20, that he considered the evidence and testimonies, “not just the title” of the charges, in making his decision. 

Legg was 19 when the killings occurred June 4 on Talucah Road in Valhermoso Springs.  

At the 12-minute hearing, defense attorney Johnny Berry told Brown his client has been an exceptional inmate since being incarcerated at the Morgan County Jail in June 2020 and had no prior felony or misdemeanor arrests before being charged with the six counts of capital murder. 

Legg was in the courtroom. He had much darker hair than at the time of his arrest, and he was wearing a gray and white jail jumpsuit, black plastic slip-on shoes, ankle shackles and handcuffs. 

After the hearing, Morgan County Assistant District Attorney Garrick Vickery said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s ruling at the youthful offender status hearing. 

“This hearing is a natural part of the process,” Vickery said. “I hate it for the victims’ families who have to go through these hearings, but we’ve got to protect the defendant’s rights. It’s a tough case for any judge to consider.” 

Vickery said he expects hearings on defense motions to take place in three to five months. He said a trial could come as early as 2023. 

District Attorney Scott Anderson said the state will seek the death penalty against Legg and co-defendant Frederic Allen Rogers, 23. 

Berry did not comment after the hearing. 

A grand jury in February indicted Rogers and Legg on six counts of capital murder. The defendants have been in the Morgan County Jail with no bail since their arrests in Marion County, Oregon, June 21, 2020. 

Authorities said the two men fled to Oregon after committing the crime. 

At a preliminary hearing Aug. 15, 2020, FBI investigator Chris Hendon testified that Rogers gave a written statement that said he fatally shot James Wayne Benford, 22, of Decatur; Jeramy Roberts, 31, of Athens; Roger Lee Jones Jr., 20, of Decatur; and William Zane Hodgin, 18, of Somerville. 

Rogers’ statement, according to Hendon, said Legg was responsible for the shooting deaths of homeowner Tammy England Muzzey, 45, Emily Payne, 21, and Dakota Green, 17, all of Valhermoso Springs. 

A small dog also was killed in the house. 

At a Nov. 16, 2020, hearing, Rogers pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease and mental defect. 

According to a search warrant affidavit, a witness said Legg and Rogers were members of a club called “7 Deadly Sins,” which also included at least three of the homicide victims. 

Rogers and Legg “became upset, particularly Legg, over the perceived disobedience towards the club and the theft of several of his firearms a few hours before the homicides,” according to the affidavit. “The witness stated that Rogers and Legg stated something to the effect of, ‘We’re going in there by force and wipe the slate clean.’ The witness stated Rogers and Legg continued to state that the ‘club’ would be dismantled by the end of the night.” 

Shortly after the shootings, according to the affidavit, the witness received a text from Rogers that said, “Everything has been dealt with.” 

The six capital murder counts are divided not by victim but by the crime committed. Count 1 is for causing the deaths of the seven victims during the course of a robbery. Count 2 is for multiple murders in the course of one scheme or course of conduct. Counts 3, 4 and 5 are for murders in the course of a burglary. Under Alabama law, burglary means entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime. The intended crimes, Anderson said, were theft, murder and assault. 

Count 6 is for murder committed during the course of an arson. 

According to Hendon’s testimony in August, some of the bodies had been doused with gasoline and were partially burned. Anderson said he believes the arson was an attempt to destroy evidence. 

Authorities found about 60 spent bullet casings in the house. Morgan County coroner Jeff Chunn said all of the victims died of multiple gunshot wounds. 

The seven deaths tied for the most during a mass killing in the nation in 2020. 

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