A Madison woman paid an alleged killer she met on Facebook $30,000 to fatally shoot the Hartselle man who was the father of their child the day of a custody hearing, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing in Morgan County District Court on Tuesday afternoon.
After two hours of testimony, District Judge Shelly Waters said probable cause had been demonstrated and she was sending the cases of the three defendants to a grand jury.
Aaron Carter Howard, 39, of Toney, and Angela Marie Stolz, 33, of Huntsville, have been charged with capital murder and Jaclyn Elaine Skuce, 38, has been charged with solicitation for murder in the July 24 shooting death of Anthony Larry Sheppard, 41, of Dawson Street in Hartselle.
Two other suspects, Logan McKinley Delp and Lajuhn Keith Smart, also have been charged with capital murder in the slaying, but their cases weren’t considered at Tuesday’s hearing. No dates for their hearings have been placed in court records.
Testimony by Hartselle police investigator Tania Burgess detailed statements by several witnesses that Skuce used a fake Facebook account to find Delp and then met with him to arrange the killing.
She gave him three payments totaling $30,000, according to testimony provided by Burgess.
A witness told Burgess during the investigation that Delp, 36, of Madison, and Stolz met in the Walmart parking lot on Drake Avenue in Huntsville with a woman driving a maroon vehicle, which met the description of Skuce’s vehicle.
Burgess said Delp and getaway driver Smart, 24, of Huntsville, provided key information to other witnesses who were interviewed. She said Sheppard had five bullet wounds when authorities arrived at the scene after a welfare check on him.
Burgess said video surveillance cameras at the victim’s home showed Delp knock on the door, fire 12 to 15 rounds and leave in a 2001 white Nissan Maxima with Smart driving. She said the car belonged to Delp’s girlfriend.
One witness said Smart, also known as KJ, called it a “life-changing amount of money,” Burgess testified.
Stolz and Howard were not seen in any of the videos but were implicated by witnesses interviewed during the investigation.
Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson said Stolz and Howard played clear roles as accomplices in Sheppard’s death.
Witnesses told Burgess “Stolz encouraged Delp and said she would do it herself if he didn’t,” Anderson said near the end of the hearing. “Howard went on surveillance trips (with Delp), and he received money. We have more than probable cause in this case.”
Two defense attorneys said the state’s evidence lacked substance and they like their clients’ chances in court.
“As the court said it is a very, very low standard to keep somebody in custody,” said Carl Cole, Howard’s attorney. “I was pleased (Waters) appeared to give it serious consideration. What happened in court today is a good sign for Mr. Howard.”
Stolz’s attorney, Robert Tuten, said he wasn’t totally disappointed the case will be sent to a grand jury.
“Proving it beyond a reasonable doubt is a different animal all together,” he said. “If that is all the evidence they have, they don’t have a capital murder case on my client at all.”
Cole said multiple videos obtained by authorities don’t show Howard at all.
“Not one has put Aaron Howard at the scene of the shooting. There’s no evidence he was in the car or had a gun,” Cole said during the hearing.
In an earlier affidavit, Burgess said Howard followed Delp’s vehicle on a motorcycle and he was a “lookout.”
Cole said Howard admits being in the area, but he didn’t shoot anybody and he was arrested for capital murder.
Catherine Carter, attorney for Skuce, said, “My client wanted protection from him.”
Burgess said during an interview with Skuce that Skuce said she and Sheppard had a personal relationship between 2011 and 2015 but never married.