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2 plead guilty to murder charges
Limestone men avoid trials for capital crimes

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — Two men facing capital murder charges in unrelated murder-for-hire plots pleaded guilty Thursday to lesser charges.

A man who allegedly abused two boys pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse.

In the first capital murder case, District Attorney Kristi Valls said, Anthony “Andy” Houston Dugger, 32, of Athens pleaded guilty to murder in the January 2002 shooting death of wrecker service owner Shane Jarrett.

Athens police said Jarrett’s wife, Melissa, and Dugger were having an affair and hired Dugger’s cousin, Chad Reece of Elkmont, to kill Shane Jarrett.

Dugger’s sentencing date is March 27.

Melissa Dugger and Reece previously accepted plea bargains and are serving life with the possibly of parole.

Valls said in the second capital murder case, Joshua Southwick of Ardmore pleaded guilty to murder and burglary in the November 2003 shooting death of 21-year-old Michael Bryant of Elkmont.

The Limestone County Sheriff’s Department said Southwick and his alleged accomplice, James Mason Duncan, killed Bryant after a former co-worker of Bryant’s hired them. In 2006, a jury found that former co-worker, Mark Angus of Ardmore, not guilty.

The prosecution contended Angus hired the duo to kill Bryant because Bryant stole guns from him.

Southwick received a life sentence for murder and 20 years for burglary. The sentences will run consecutively.

Duncan testified in Angus’ trial that he and Southwick shot Bryant. Valls expects Duncan to accept a plea, but his trial date is not until April 16.

In the abuse case, Valls said, Gerald Edwin Rickrode of Elkmont pleaded guilty to abusing two victims.

In June 2005, a 13-year-old boy told Limestone investigators that Rickrode fondled him. After media reports about Rickrode’s arrest, a 17-year-old reported Rickrode abused him in 1999 when he lived in Rickrode’s neighborhood.

Valls said Rickrode received a 10-year split sentence. He will serve two years and be on supervised probation for five years.

He must register as a sex offender and pay restitution for the victims’ counseling bills.

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