OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – There is another significant delay in the Capital Murder trial of a man accused of gunning down an Auburn Police Officer and inuring other officers in 2019. This latest postponement comes just one week before jury selection was scheduled to start on Feb. 6th.
Officer William Buechner’s family and APD have waited three years and eight months for his accused killer to be judged by a jury. Now, they will wait another six more months for a protected July 31st trial date.
32-year-old Grady Wilkes is charged in the Capital Murder of Officer Buechner, a 37-year-old husband, and father of two who served as a peace officer for 13 years. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In a Motion to Continue Trial filed on Friday, January 27, Wilkes’ defense attorneys explain in the past three weeks they’ve received additional discovery from the prosecution, including recordings, diagrams, and statements. Wilkes’ attorneys also say defense witnesses have provided information critical to the case not previously available.
“6. Counsel for both parties has worked diligently to prepare for the scheduled trial date in this case. Any delay in disclosure of evidence is not the fault of counsel for either party but was unavoidable as both parties have been gathering additional evidence relevant to the issues in this case. 7. The recent receipt of evidence has led to the need to request additional evidence that is relevant and critical to the defense. This additional information will not be available before the scheduled start of the trial in this case. 8. It will be impossible for counsel for the Defendant to be prepared for trial on the scheduled date,” read the Defense Motion to Continue.
Monday, a Lee County Circuit Judge approved the continuance.
“The Court has worked closely with counsel for both parties and is confident they all have prepared with the utmost diligence, as have the Court Administrator and Clerk. Defendant has been, and will continue to be, incarcerated. Having considered the grounds set forth by Defendant and by the State, and applying the standard set by the law, as the Court is required to do, the Court hereby GRANTS said motion. The trial will be continued from its current setting February 6, 2023, and is RESET to commence during the term beginning July 31, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. That is a two week term.DONE this 30th day of January, 2023. /s/ CHRISTOPHER J HUGHES.”
Prosecutors say on May 19, 2019, Auburn officers met with a female victim who reported her live-in boyfriend and child’s father, Grady Wilkes, had choked her and threatened to kill her. The woman had run away from the mobile home where the couple lived off Wire Road and had met with responding officers near the front of the Arrowhead mobile home community. Prosecutors say when officers knocked on the door of the home, Wilkes answered wearing body armor and immediately began firing at the officers. Wilkes was allegedly armed with an AR-15. Officer Buechner, Officer Webb Sistrunk, and Officer Evan Elliott were all struck by gunfire, another officer escaped without injury.
Wilkes was arrested some nine hours later about a mile away from the scene of the shooting. Wilkes was in the Army National Guard. Police say they had no prior contact with Wilkes.
Buechner’s murder marked the darkest day in Auburn Public safety history as he was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s history.