Triple murder suspect jailed

Empire man charged with 3 counts of capital murder in shooting at funeral home
Elane Jones and Ron Harris
The Daily Mountain Eagle
Published March 28, 2003 12:41 AM CST

A man charged with Wednesday's triple homicide in Sumiton was returned to Walker County Thursday, nearly five months after being released from a Florida prison for attempted murder and robbery.

Christopher Shane Hyde, 30, of Empire was booked into the Walker County Jail. He is expected to face capital murder charges for shooting three people at Bell-Sumiton Funeral Home just before 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.

Hyde is accused of brutally killing Rick Peterson, 50, of Sumiton; June Williams, 61, of Mount Olive; and Randle Lane, 66, of Birmingham.

Robbery appears to be the motive for the crime, police said.

"We believe the suspect was looking for some easy money and went into the funeral home to rob it," Sumiton Police Chief Rick Schultz said. "We think he robbed Mr. Peterson and Mr. Lane, and then shot both of them along with Mrs. Williams."

Walker County District Attorney Charles Baker said Hyde would be charged with three counts of capital murder. The warrant includes charges that Hyde took wallets from the victims.

Hyde also allegedly took Peterson's pickup truck to flee the scene. It was later found parked beside Scott Texaco in the Argo Hill community.

If convicted of capital murder, Hyde could face the death penalty.

Peterson was a part-time worker at the funeral home and pastor of Faith Worship Center in Sumiton. Williams was manager of Bell-Sumiton Funeral Home and the wife of Edwin Williams, pastor of Warrior Church of God.

Lane was a retired manager for Batesville Casket Co.'s Birmingham office. He was making a delivery to Bell-Sumiton when the shooting occurred.

Members of Faith Worship Center are today trying to cope with Peterson's death.

"I love to walk in that church because you feel the presence of God," said Pam Young. "Ricky had a fire in him (for the Lord) like I have never seen before. One thing he preached about all the time and said was, 'I will stay in the boat, and I will make it to the other side.' If I've ever been confident in my whole life that anybody is up there with Jesus right now, I know that Ricky is. His faith just blew me away."

Police were able to focus their investigation on Hyde after a witness said he saw the suspect place a bicycle into Peterson's truck and leave Bell-Sumiton's parking lot. The truck was later found next to Scott Texaco in the Argo Hill community.

A relative reportedly took Hyde to Birmingham to board a bus but had no knowledge of what had happened.

Hyde was arrested in Atlanta when he arrived there by bus from Birmingham, Sumiton Assistant Police Chief Hugh Kirkpatrick said. Atlanta police had been notified that Hyde was en route and arrested him without incident, Kirkpatrick said.

"This is just senseless. There's no rhyme or reason for this," said Lane Sargent, pastor at Sumiton Church of God. "You can't come up with anything to understand why a man would walk into a business and shoot three people. It just doesn't make sense."

Baker said Hyde signed a waiver of extradition and, after going before a judge for an extradition hearing Thursday morning, was brought back to Walker County Thursday afternoon and placed in the Walker County Jail. No bond was issued.

Hyde has been charged with two counts of capital murder during first-degree robbery and one count of capital murder of two or more persons.

"We really appreciate Circuit Judge Jerry Selman for all his cooperation Wednesday night," Baker said. "He came down to the courthouse when we called him Wednesday night after the suspect had been identified and immediately signed the warrants for Mr. Hyde's arrest. Investigators with the D.A.'s office and Sumiton Police Department were then dispatched to Atlanta to pick up the suspect and return him to Alabama."

Records from the Florida Department of Corrections show Hyde was released from prison on Nov. 1 after serving 8 1/2 years of a 17-year sentence for attempted murder, robbery with a gun and vehicle theft. He has several relatives near Sumiton.

Hyde was arrested on Jan. 21, 1993, five days after he beat Raymond Davies with a tire iron in the doorway of Davies' apartment in suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Hyde then stole Davies' wallet and car, leaving the victim bloodied and unconscious on the apartment floor.

Davies, who was paralyzed and in a wheelchair, had picked up Hyde on Fort Lauderdale Beach and they had sex before the beating, police records showed. Hyde was released early from prison because of old rules that gave inmates up to 20 days off their sentence for each month of good behavior.

Schultz said despite what happened Wednesday, the community was relatively quiet Thursday.

"Everybody is still reeling from what happened Wednesday afternoon," he said. "They're trying to make some sense of it and put a reason to why someone would walk into a funeral home and kill the people working there."

Schultz said several articles taken during the robbery were recovered, including wallets belonging to Peterson and Lane.

"Everyone involved in this investigation did an outstanding job," he said. "It involved several law enforcement agencies, from the Sumiton Police Department, Walker County Sheriff's Department, Walker County District Attorney's Office, Jasper Police Department to the Alabama Department of Public Safety Trooper Division.

"Everyone worked together following leads and we got some lucky breaks," he added. "But it all boiled down to some simple old-fashioned detective work done by both patrol officers and investigators alike."

Schultz said he believes this is the first triple homicide in Walker County.

"I have been in law enforcement for about 30 years and I don't ever remember a triple homicide in this county," he said. "I can't thank everyone enough for all the hard work and long hours they put in to help us solve this case in such an expedient manner."

COPYRIGHT ® 2003 Daily Mountain Eagle, a division of Cleveland Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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