William Henry Abbott pleaded guilty to capital murder Monday morning in connection to the killing of a Hanceville man who was believed to be a key witness in an incest case against Abbott.
Cullman County Circuit Judge Greg Nicholas sentenced Abbott to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2010 murder of Jerry Allen Martin, 47, of Hanceville. Abbott, of Chigger Ridge, admitted to shooting Martin twice and setting his vehicle on fire to destroy the crime scene.
Abbott’s wife, Donna Lane Abbott, and his sons, William Cecil Abbott and Arnold Andrews Abbott, also face capital murder charges for their alleged roles in the November 2010 shooting and burning of Martin. Police said Martin had been set to testify against Abbott in a rape and incest case involving one of Abbott’s female family members.
Abbott was instructed to tell the court about the murder and stated that he picked Martin up from his mobile home. During the ride, Abbott had Martin, who was in the passenger seat, switch places with him to the driver’s seat.
“Then I shot him twice,” Abbott said.
Abbott said he used a 7.62 mm, or .30 caliber, pistol in the shooting. Authorities said Abbott then set Martin and the vehicle on fire to try to destroy the crime scene.
Martin’s older brother, Steven Martin, attended the hearing and sat beside Abbott’s stepdaughter, Brenda Moore. At times, both became visibly upset and cried, particularly when Abbott recounted how he killed Jerry Martin.
“I’m glad some justice is done, and we can have some closure now,” said Steven Martin after he watched Abbott being led out of the courtroom. “He’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He’ll be judged up there, and he will be held accountable for what he did.”
Martin said he plans to attend future court proceedings for Abbott’s wife, Donna, and his two sons, William Cecil Abbott and Arnold Andrews Abbott, who also face capital murder charges for their alleged roles in the killing.
“Jerry was a good person,” Steven said. “Every day, he went to work at the hatchery in Hanceville and came home. He never bothered a soul. There’s been a lot of suffering through all this.”
Moore said she was relieved Abbott’s life prison sentence meant he “could never hurt anyone else again.”
“My uncle (Jerry Martin) was a good man, and he was going to do the right thing and testify in my case,” Moore said. “I’m just glad we’re getting this all over with so my uncle can finally rest in peace.”
Abbott’s life sentence will run concurrently with the 10 years he was previously sentenced to in December for pleading guilty to incest.
Nicholas ordered Abbott to pay $500 in restitution to the family, a $50,000 fine, a $2,500 fine for the state’s crime victims fund and all court and legal fees for his representation by Cullman attorneys Larry and Richard Collins .
Abbott has 42 days to file an appeal.
In pleading guilty to one count of capital murder, the Cullman County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the two other counts. When Nicholas asked if Abbott had anything to say after the sentencing, he responded “No sir.” As bailiffs led him out of the court room, Abbott, who was shackled around his waist, looked back at his stepdaughter, Brenda Moore, and Martin’s brother, Steven Martin.
Cullman County District Attorney Wilson Blaylock said they were pleased with the plea.
“It certainly fits the charge,” Blaylock said. “It was a fairly complicated case with a lot of forensics involved. We waited to get evidence back from the forensic lab and there were a lot of people involved in it. We are certainly happy with the plea.”
Lauren Estes can be reached at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.