By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
The incest case which prosecutors believe precipitated a murder-for-hire conspiracy to kill a witness ended this week in a guilty plea, with the defendant and other family members still in jail awaiting trial on the murder charges.
William Henry Abbott, 53, of Chigger Ridge pleaded guilty to a single count of incest Tuesday in Cullman County circuit court. An additional incest charge, as well as a related second degree rape charge, were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
Abbott, who was already being held in Cullman on the capital murder charges, now faces 10 years in state prison for the incest plea, and must register as an Alabama sex offender. He is forbidden to have contact of any kind with the victim in the incest case.
Abbott, his wife, Donna Lane Abbott, and sons, William Cecil Abbott and Arnold Andrews Abbott, all face capital murder charges in Cullman County for their alleged role in the Nov. 2010 shooting and burning of Jerry Allen Martin of Cullman. Police said Martin, 47, had been set to testify against Abbott in the rape and incest case.
His body was discovered inside a burning vehicle by volunteer firefighters at Dodge City; an autopsy report later determined he had died of a bullet wound.
The murder cases have been pushed back since indictments were handed down against all four family members in April of 2011. One of the siblings, Arnold faces an additional count of first-degree hindering of prosecution for allegedly providing his father transportation out of state in order to evade apprehension by police.
Arnold Abbott and his father were arrested in Morehead City, N.C. days after Martin’s murder. After a brief delay, they were extradited to Cullman for arraignment on the murder charges.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.