Murder-for-hire defendant seeks bond

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

A capital murder defendant in an alleged murder-for-hire plot that left a Hartselle man dead asked a judge Friday to set bond so she can reestablish her relationship with her children.

Catherine Carter and Wendy Lopez, attorneys for Jacyln Elaine Skuce, presented letters of support and a certificate of completion of a jail class to Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell in their effort to get the judge to set bond.

Skuce, 40, of Madison, allegedly set up a murder-for-hire scheme in the fatal shooting of Anthony Larry Sheppard, 41, the father of one of her children. He was shot at his Hartselle home on July 24, 2020.

“People better themselves in these (jail) classes,” Carter said. “These letters and this certificate show her character despite her current situation.”

Carter emphasized to the judge that her client was not present at the shooting and there are “conflicting statements given in this case.”

Testimony at the preliminary hearing in August 2020 included claims that Skuce paid a man she met on Facebook $30,000 to fatally shoot Sheppard on the day of a Limestone County custody hearing.

Testimony by then-Hartselle police investigator Tania Burgess detailed statements by several witnesses that Skuce used a fake Facebook account to find Logan Delp, 38, and then met with him to arrange the killing.

Burgess was in court Friday giving additional details, saying Skuce “did admit to her participation” in the fatal shooting. Burgess said at least a dozen shots were fired at the scene. Delp is accused of being the triggerman in the crime and charged with capital murder.

Others charged with capital murder in the case are Angela Stolz, 35, of Huntsville; Aaron Carter Howard, 41, of Toney; and Lajuhn Keith Smart Jr., 26, of Huntsville.

Carter said she is asking the judge to set a “reasonable bond that reflects the nature of the charge, but is not so high that it only serves to keep the defendant in jail because it cannot be made.”

Carter said there are numerous inconsistencies in the testimony from witnesses and co-defendants in the case.

“The state alleges my client hired co-defendant, Logan Delp, to kill the victim,” Carter said in an email to The Daily after the bond hearing. “However, Delp was asked in a recorded interrogation by police on Sept. 1, 2020, ‘When did you decide you were going to kill him?’ Delp responded, ‘When he started getting violent toward me.’ Delp explained, in the same recorded interrogation, that in the weeks before the victim’s death he had approached the victim to discuss Ms. Skuce’s desire for the victim to leave her alone.

“Delp told the police that when he began to discuss this with the victim, the victim pulled a knife and assaulted Delp. Some weeks later, Delp shot the victim. This is not consistent with the state’s theory that my client hired Delp to kill Sheppard.”

She added that in the Sept. 1 interrogation, “Delp also stated that he did not inform Skuce about what his plans were. He responded, ‘No, I didn’t give her too much information, that way she didn’t know too much about what I was doing.’”

Carter asked that bond be set and that her client be released with an ankle monitor so she can stay at a friend’s house instead of the Morgan County Jail.

District Attorney Scott Anderson said she should remain behind bars.

“She admitted to capital murder,” he said in the court hearing. “She wanted this man dead. She saved her nickels, dimes and dollars to pay for this. She set all of the pieces up to be knocked down. She is why we are here today. And if she is released on bond I don’t know where she is going to live. Where in Morgan County or in Alabama are we going to say it is OK for this person to be someone’s neighbor? … A likelihood of her conviction is great. We need to keep her where she is.”

After the hearing, Anderson said bond is generally inappropriate in capital murder cases.

“Setting a bond in a capital murder case is very rare and almost never occurs,” he said. “The reason is because in the event of a conviction the only available punishment is either life without parole or the death penalty. Either penalty leaves very little incentive for a defendant facing those options to stay in the state or in the country for that matter. It just boils down to the fact that the stakes are too high for a defendant to not entertain the thought of fleeing in order to avoid the inevitable.”

Assistant District Attorney Garrick Vickery said he expects Howell to issue her ruling in the next couple of weeks. In October, bond was denied for Howard, who prosecutors allege was a lookout during the shooting.

All of the defendants and their attorneys were present in the courtroom Friday.

All parties said it could be two years or more before any of the trials are held. Anderson said he is seeking the death penalty for Skuce.

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