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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2007
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Jury selection begins in drowning trial

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the capital murder trial of the last of three people accused of drowning an 84-year-old man in the Black Warrior River while robbing him.

Jessica Reena Thomas, 23, is accused of kidnapping, robbery and burglary in Ellis Hinton's January 2004 death.

Sheila Evette Allen and Michael Pearson Jr. pleaded guilty earlier in the case. Pearson, who pleaded to capital murder, was sentenced to life without parle, and Allen, who pleaded guilty to felony murder and burglary, is serving two consecutive life sentences.

Prosecutors said in the earlier trials that the suspects killed Hinton so they could rob him of what they thought was a large sum of money in his home. A wedding ring, $8 in cash, two weed trimmers, a .410-gauge shotgun, a tape measure and a package of T-shirts were taken from his residence, according to investigators' reports.

Investigators said Hinton was beaten in the head with rocks before he drowned. His car was recovered later in Moody Swamp in west Tuscaloosa.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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