First-degree murder trial started Monday

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

By Karen Hall

Editor

It's been almost four years, but at last a man is on trial, accused in the shooting death of Ronald Shelton.

The defendant is Sharod Moore, 32, formerly of Lewisburg. Allegedly Moore and Jason McCollum, also of Lewisburg, went to Shelton's room at the Old Fox Motel soon after 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, called Shelton to the door, and shot him through the glass.

Often the motive for a crime quickly becomes apparent, and knowing the motive can point police toward the perpetrator. In Shelton's death the motive was not apparent -- by all accounts, he was a law-abiding man with a steady job and a loving family. Police continued investigating, but no arrests were made until August 2012, when Heather McCollum, under suspicion for the murder of John Poteete, made a statement which linked Moore and her husband, Jason McCollum, to the death of Shelton, and the two were arrested.

Moore's trial started at 9 a.m. Monday with jury selection, and by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the selection of 12 jurors and four alternates was complete.

Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell said, "It's going to take a while," and guessed the trial might take two weeks or more.

The 80 or so who answered the call to jury service were given the names of witnesses who will be called during the course of the trial, many of whom were present in the courtroom, and asked if they knew them and if they had a problem with hearing evidence from them.

A few potential jurors were released because they had prior knowledge of the case or because spending two or more weeks in court would be a genuine hardship for them.

Then Russell read a list of about 30 names and asked the jury pool if they knew any of them. Quite a few hands were raised, and those people were privately interviewed one by one.

Among the names were those of Jerron Braden and the late Penny Blackwell Coyle. In March 2013, Braden was tried for the murder of Coyle, and found guilty of the lesser-included charge of facilitation of first-degree murder. This means the jury thought he was involved in the planning and/or execution of the murder of Coyle on Nov. 21, 2011, but he was not the one who killed her.

It was never alleged that Moore was at the scene of Coyle's death on Old Rock Crusher Road, but it was rumored he provided weapons and encouragement to Braden and three others.

Moore is being represented by appointed attorney Melissa Thomas of Fayetteville, while the prosecutors are District Attorney Rob Carter, and Assistant District Attorneys Eddie Barnard and Mike Randles.

By Monday afternoon 16 potential jurors were seated in the first two rows of seats in the center section of the courtroom, and 16 more were seated behind them. The prosecution and defense then began exercising their challenge rights, and gradually members of the first 16 were replaced by selections from the group behind them. Late Monday afternoon, there was only one replacement left, and more were potential jurors were moved into the vacant seats. By Tuesday morning, selection was complete: nine men and seven women.

All seemed to agree with Thomas they could give Moore "a fair shake."

"This will be a lot about common sense," she said. "Use your common sense -- pick out the lies -- and make the right decision."