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Hartselle Enquirer
Enquirer photo/ Michael Wetzel This is the scene of the shooting deaths of seven people, 522 Talucah Road in Valhermoso Springs, in June 2020.

Attorneys in capital murder case seek to visit scene with client

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

Attorneys for one of two men facing capital murder charges in the June 2020 shooting deaths of seven people in Valhermoso Springs want a judge to permit their client to view the scene of the slayings.

Attorneys for John Michael Legg (right) have asked a Morgan County judge to grant several motions to preserve his rights. Legg and Frederic Allen Rogers (left) face the death penalty on charges they fatally shot seven people in Valhermoso Springs June 4, 2020.

The request was among 13 motions attorneys for defendant John Michael Legg presented to a Morgan County circuit judge during a hearing Jan. 10 – motions they said would protect their client’s rights.

“We have the right to look at it with our client,” said defense attorney Johnny Berry, speaking about the house at 522 Talucah Road, where the seven victims were found.

“If there is a need, I will make sure that happens,” Judge Stephen Brown told Berry during the 29-minute hearing. “It can be done. We’ll have to find the owners of the property.”

Attorney Brandon C. Little and Berry, both of Cullman, said the defendant has the right to be present at all proceedings at every stage of his capital murder trial.

“Today were general motions of things we filed to protect (Legg’s) constitutional rights,” Berry said.

Little said the defense team is “waiting for discovery to come in, and then we’ll know how to proceed.”

Among the motions were these, asking that the state:

  • “Reveal to the defense the identity of all confidential informants, any promises or understanding with any witness or information, and whether any threats or inducements of any nature whatsoever have been made regarding any witness or informant.”
  • Provide to the defense all mitigating evidence maintaining or acquired by the state.
  • Disclose any alleged prior wrongs, crimes or acts the state intends to introduce at trial.

Other motions asked that the defense receive a transcript of the preliminary hearing of Aug. 14, 2020, and evidence of prosecution’s files, records and information necessary to a fair trial. Additionally, the defense asked the judge to apply heightened standards of scrutiny and reliability in the case because the state is seeking the death penalty.

District attorney Scott Anderson said he had no objections to the defense’s motions.

Brown said he would send the parties his rulings on the motions in writing.

Co-defendant Frederic Allen Rogers, 23, was present at the hearing, but his defense attorney, Carl Cole, said he had no motions for the judge to consider.

Family members of at least two victims were present at the hearing but declined to comment afterward.

In October, Brown denied Legg’s request for youthful offender status. Legg was 19 when he was charged with taking part in the septuple murder June 4, 2020.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease and mental defect to the six capital murder charges they are facing.

At a preliminary hearing in 2020, FBI investigator Chris Hendon testified Rogers gave a written statement that 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 was also killed in the house.

Anderson said the state would seek the death penalty against the two defendants.

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 that Rogers and Legg continued to state that the ‘club’ would be dismantled by the end of the night.”

Rogers and Legg were apprehended in Stayton, Oregon, 2,517 miles from Decatur, June 21, 2020, and transported back to Morgan County. They remain in the Morgan County Jail.

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.

The FBI has said the Valhermoso Springs killings appear to be “the second-largest mass shooting” in state history, behind a 2009 shooting in Geneva County that claimed 10 victims and the shooter.

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