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Lawyer: Others involved in death
But defendant admitted beating Lawrence teacher, witnesses say during trial

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — The lawyer for a Lawrence County teenager, on trial in the killing of schoolteacher Judy Jester, said another teenage boy demanded money from her and knocked her to the floor.

Defendant Demetrick Young intended only to rob her and take items he could pawn, his attorney, John Mays, said in his opening statement.

But witnesses said Young told them he beat and robbed Jester, 55.

Young, who was 15 at the time of the attack, is charged with capital murder. Jester, a teacher at Hatton Elementary School, was fatally beaten Oct. 26, 2005, at the Lawrence County Family Education Center.

A dozen witnesses called

The prosecution — District Attorney Jim Osborn and Assistant District Attorney Bob Lang — called a dozen witnesses Tuesday.

They included friends of Young who were in contact with him on the day of the attack, a FedEx driver who made a delivery to the school that day, law enforcement officials and medical professionals.

A 14-member jury, including two alternates, was chosen Monday. The jury consists of eight men and six women. Two are black women.

Young allegedly robbed Jester of $1, beat her unconscious, and left her in the building, where she had been working after school, authorities said.

Authorities said in the days following the attack that no evidence suggested more than one person was involved. No charges have been filed against anyone other than Young.

However, Mays said Tuesday he expected scientific evidence presented during the trial will reveal that skin from three people was found under Jester's fingernails.

On the day of the beating, Young and some friends smoked marijuana and decided to visit a bootlegger to buy alcohol, Mays said. They didn't have enough money, so they decided to rob whoever was at the school and take items to pawn, he said.

Young and three other local teenagers — Kendrick Echols, Zachery Burgess and Chris Burgess — didn't go to the school intending to kill anyone, Mays said.

After entering the building, they saw a purse sitting on a desk and then saw Jester, Mays said.

She asked if she could help the boys, and Chris Burgess told her, " 'Shut up, bitch; we want your money,' " and knocked her to the floor, Mays said.

Young and Zachery Burgess then ran from the school to Young's grandmother's house, Mays said. Echols and Chris Burgess arrived there about 30 minutes later.

Asked if Jester would contact the police, Mays said, Echols told his friends, " 'She won't be calling anybody. I think we killed her. It wasn't worth it.' "

Embarrassed by his involvement in the robbery, Young first denied to authorities that he entered the school, Mays said. Young contacted the Lawrence County sheriff's office about five months after the crime and told the sheriff that he was in the building but didn't kill Jester, Mays said.

Called to the stand as witnesses, Zachery Burgess, Echols and Chris Burgess each said Young told them he'd beaten and robbed Jester.

They said they didn't have plans to rob anyone or steal items to pawn, and there was no discussion about visiting a bootlegger.

On the day of the attack, C.J. Jackson walked with his girlfriend to the park adjacent to the school, where he saw Chris Burgess and Echols.

Jackson said Chris Burgess told him Young had beaten a teacher. Jackson said he then went to find Jester.

He began to search the building with Chris Burgess.

"I told them they didn't have to go in with me, but I was going up there," Jackson said.

Jackson found Jester and called 911. He poured water on her neck and face, trying to wake her up, he said.

She never regained consciousness. She died days later at Huntsville Hospital when her family gave doctors permission to take her off life support.

During opening statements for the prosecution, Lang said Young bragged to friends after the attack that he'd knocked Jester to the floor and stomped her head, and that he'd taken $1 from her. Evidence at the scene revealed Jester fought back, he said.

A table had been moved and chairs were overturned, Lang said. Dale McGee, a FedEx driver who delivered a package to the school the afternoon of the attack, said he saw two black males outside the building when he arrived.

Another black male was inside the building, standing on the left side of a door going into Jester's office, he said. Young, Echols and the two Burgesses are all black.

McGee said he remembered seeing a student with a large build but could not say for certain whether he saw Young.

"I remember thinking, this is a big kid," he said.

Young seemed to show little emotion when the prosecution displayed images of Jester's heavily bruised face, legs, arms and chest.

He wore a shirt and tie, slacks, a beige pullover and a cross necklace. His family and Jester's family sat on opposite sides of the courtroom.

Young entered a plea of not guilty in February in Lawrence County Circuit Court. Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Lawrence County Courthouse before Judge Phillip Reich.

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