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Chief Deputy Randy King, left, and Capt. Johnny McDonald, right, bring Derrick Green to the Limestone County Courthouse for his preliminary hearing Tuesday. Green is one of three facing capital murder charges in the bludgeoning death of an Ardmore man.
Daily photo by Holly Hollman
Chief Deputy Randy King, left, and Capt. Johnny McDonald, right, bring Derrick Green to the Limestone County Courthouse for his preliminary hearing Tuesday. Green is one of three facing capital murder charges in the bludgeoning death of an Ardmore man.

Murder cases head to grand jury
Suspects remain in jail
in death of Ardmore man

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — "The truth will set you free, and I told the truth."

That's what capital murder suspect Jeannie Carol Green, 35, of Ardmore, said Tuesday on the elevator after her preliminary hearing.

"It might not set me free physically," she said, holding out her handcuffed wrists toward investigators, "but it set me free mentally."

She hasn't gotten her physical freedom. Limestone District Judge Jeanne Anderson found there is enough evidence to send her case to a grand jury, which means Jeannie Green will remain in jail without bond.

Anderson also found there is enough evidence to send the case against Green's husband to a grand jury. Derrick Green, 41, had his hearing in conjunction with his wife's.

Sheriff Mike Blakely testified that the couple and a third man, Randall Allen "Bingo" Clem, 39, of Ardmore, Tenn., plotted in November to rob 74-year-old Art Champion at Champion's Ardmore home. They face charges of capital murder for robbery, capital murder for burglary, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary.

District Attorney Kristi Valls said she expects Clem's attorney, Dan Totten, to waive Clem's case to a grand jury and not have a preliminary hearing.

Valls and defense attorneys Garry Clem and Brian Jones questioned Blakely and Lt. Brad Curnutt about the case at the couple's hearing.

Blakely testified that Jeannie Green tried to borrow money from Champion the night of the murder, but he refused to give her money. He said Jeannie Green "insisted" that her husband and Clem take Champion's money. Blakely said Jeannie Green went back to Champion's home to pretend to use the phone and left the door unlocked so her husband and Clem could enter without "breaking it down."

Blakely said Derrick Green and Clem beat Champion multiple times in the head with a hickory stick about the size of a shovel's handle.

Blakely said Champion's deaf son and deaf daughter-in-law found him dead and notified Ardmore Police. Blakely said Champion was in his underwear lying sideways, almost face down, in a pool of blood on his bedroom floor. Blakely said that, based on blood evidence and defendant statements, it appeared that Champion's dog barked, waking him. Champion confronted Derrick Green and Clem in the living room, and Green swung at least once, striking Champion in the head.

Blakely said Derrick Green then went into Champion's room to get a jug of coins.

After the suspects left, Blakely said it appears Champion staggered down the hallway and around his bedroom before dying.

Lt. Brad Curnutt testified that Jeannie Green often borrowed money from Champion as well as cooked for him and had sex with him.

Curnutt said investigators initiated a search for Jeannie Green after finding Champion's body because a sticky note on Champion's countertop had her name and a phone number.

Curnutt and Blakely said Jeannie Green was not a suspect at first but a potential witness. A female relative of Jeannie Green's also had called an Ardmore officer with a tip that authorities needed to talk to Derrick Green and Bingo Clem about the murder, Blakely said.

When Curnutt and Chief Deputy Randy King picked Jeannie Green up for questioning, Curnutt said she remarked, "That's bad about (Champion) being dead."

Her attorney, Garry Clem, questioned Blakely repeatedly about when the sheriff thought Jeannie Green was a suspect and when the sheriff notified her of her rights.

Blakely said Jeannie Green asked to speak to him privately and told him she knew "they did it," meaning her husband and Bingo Clem. Blakely said he then advised her of her rights and told her she needed to talk to an investigator.

Garry Clem asked whether Blakely told Jeannie Green she could "help herself if she gave a statement." Blakely said he did not. Jeannie Green shook her head yes, to indicate the sheriff did.

Blakely said he told Jeannie Green that if she was not involved, she "probably wouldn't be in trouble."

Curnutt testified that after Derrick Green and Bingo Clem elaborated on Jeannie Green's role, that she admitted to unlocking the door, calling her husband from Champion's trailer, meeting her husband and Bingo Clem on their way to the trailer and using the crack cocaine the three allegedly bought from a Harvest drug dealer with the change they took.

Blakely said authorities recovered the jug of change from the drug dealer, who admitted to selling crack to the trio.

Defense attorneys wanted to call two other investigators to question them about procedures taken at the crime scene and the questioning of their clients. Valls objected because the defense had asked that witnesses not be in the courtroom during testimony, and both investigators were in the courtroom. Anderson sustained Valls' objection.

The trio's cases now will go to a grand jury to decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

Hines makes appearance

A man police said killed an Athens man and went on the run for a week appeared in court Tuesday without a lawyer.

Jarvis Hines, 20, of Tanner, told Anderson that he told his lawyer he was innocent and his lawyer saw no need to appear at the preliminary hearing. Hines faces charges of capital murder for robbery and first-degree robbery.

Hines' father, Merlin Hines, told the judge that he had only tentatively hired a lawyer, and his son needed to apply for a public defender.

Anderson reset the preliminary hearing for Jan. 23 at 2:30 p.m.

Athens police Lt. Floyd Johnson said Hines allegedly shot and killed Donnell McCullough, 64, on Dec. 14 at McCullough's Houston Court Apartments home.

Police still are investigating and have not released many details other than the two allegedly were in some type of discussion prior to the shooting.

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