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Man faces death penalty in Bessemer bank robbery

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — A man accused in a bank robbery that left two tellers dead of gunshot wounds and two more wounded was charged with capital murder and faces the death penalty if convicted, authorities said Tuesday.

William Merriweather Jr., 30, is being held without bond in the deaths of Eva Hudson and Sheila Prevo, said Assistant District Attorney Ted Mills.

Merriweather also was accused of attempted murder in the wounding of Anita Gordon and LaToya Freeman, Mills said, and kidnapping for allegedly taking a male bank manager hostage and trying to escape during the holdup Monday at a Bessemer branch of Wachovia Corp.

The man initially was charged with a third count of capital murder because authorities believed Prevo was pregnant, Mills said. But an examination revealed she was not expecting and the charge was dropped, he said.

Authorities said Merriweather walked into the bank shortly after it opened at 9 a.m., demanded money and started shooting. Mills said there was no known motive for the killings aside from robbery, and authorities believe Merriweather acted alone.

"He had a bag of money when he ran out the door," said the prosecutor.

Once outside, the man was confronted by a sheriff's deputy and Chris Chappell, a customer who was inside the bank and ran outside once the shooting began. Speaking in an interview with WBRC-TV, Chappell said he retrieved a gun out of his car and flagged the officer into the parking lot, where they both waited for the man to emerge from the bank.

The robber started out the door alone but turned around when he saw the two armed men, Chappell said.

"That's when he comes out the door with a hostage. I'm telling him to get down, the cop's hollering to get down, and he doesn't know what to do because he's jerking the hostage around from side to side," Chappell told the station.

The officer opened fire, hitting Merriweather in the upper thigh. Disabled, the suspect was taken into custody.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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