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Claims of a 'setup'
Defendant told authorities he never touched slain teacher

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com 340-2443

MOULTON — By Thursday afternoon, a jury could begin deciding the fate of a Lawrence County teen accused of killing Hatton Elementary teacher Judy Jester in October 2005.

Demetrick Young is charged with capital murder in connection with Jester's death. He was 15 years old when he allegedly robbed Jester and fatally beat her while she was working after school in the Lawrence County Family Education Center, authorities said.

Young's attorney, John Mays, said he expected to call his last witness Thursday.

Police said early in the investigation that no evidence led them to believe more than one person was involved in the attack.

Young, however, told authorities about a year after Jester's death that he'd been "set up," and that he never touched Jester.

Testimony in the trial began Tuesday.

The prosecution — District Attorney Jim Osborn and Assistant District Attorney Bob Lang — called their last witnesses Wednesday afternoon. The witnesses were Moulton police Capt. Damon Morgan, a neurologist from Huntsville Hospital, and fingerprint and forensics specialists.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury viewed an audio visual recording of Young telling investigators two local teenage boys had been bragging about how he was blamed for killing Jester.

Young told investigators that Chris Burgess and his brother Zachery Burgess killed Jester and set him up, but Morgan said authorities never found credible evidence that proved the Burgess brothers were involved in Jester's death.

No charges were filed against anyone other than Young.

Young said on the recording that he didn't tell authorities about anyone else being involved in the attack sooner because he was afraid his family would be harmed.

Mays said Tuesday that Chris Burgess, who was a teenager at the time of the beating, demanded money from Jester and knocked her to the floor.

The Burgess brothers, and another local teenager, Kendrick Echols, entered the Family Education Center on Oct. 26, 2005, looking for someone to rob and items to pawn, Mays said. The group needed money to visit a bootlegger and purchase alcohol, Mays said.

When the attack began, Jester scratched Young's face, but Young never hit her, he said. After Jester scratched him, Young fled the scene, Mays said.

When Mays questioned the Burgess brothers Tuesday, he didn't ask if they attacked Jester.

Morgan said no scientific evidence connects anyone other than Young to the killing. He said the Burgess brothers nor Echols had any scratches or other injuries following the attack.

Lang said Young bragged to friends that he had taken $1 from Jester, stomped her head and left her to die in the school building.

A neurologist and forensic pathologist said Jester's injuries could have been the result of her head being stomped, but Morgan said the shoes Young wore the night of the beating had none of Jester's DNA.

Nancy Jones, a forensics specialist with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, said skin from at least three people was found underneath Jester's fingernails. Jones said the skin most likely belonged to Jester and Young, and that a DNA mixture from as many as seven different people under Jester's fingernails could have been the result of casual contact.

DNA under Jester's fingernails did not belong to either of the Burgess brothers, Jones said.

Kathy Haggermaker, 16, once told Morgan the Burgess brothers told her they were involved in Jester's killing, but her inability to provide detailed information led him to believe she was not a credible source, Morgan said.

Haggermaker testified Wednesday that she was afraid that she and her family would be threatened if she disclosed certain details. She said the Burgess brothers told her they helped Young kill Jester.

If Young is convicted, a judge could sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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