Russell County kidnapping, capital murder suspects make first court appearance


Two days after allegedly killing a Columbus woman, four suspects facing the possibility of the death penalty made their first court appearance this morning.

Circuit Court Judge David Johnson ordered all four co-defendants held without bond and appointed legal counsel to each one.

The 72-hour hearing in Alabama is just so the suspects can know what charges they face. And these four suspects could face the maximum punishment offered in Alabama.

Tameka Skinner, 39, was shot to death Monday morning in what the Russell County Sheriff’s Office says was a kidnapping and murder plot.

The four suspects —  suspected mastermind 30-year-old Demetria Johnson of Columbus, 40-year-old Shaun Johnson and 30-year-old Joshua Tolbert also of Columbus and 33-year-old Jayvonn Phillips of Seale, Ala. — appeared in court the morning of July 29.

The judge put a gag order on everyone involved in the case, from law enforcement to attorneys to defendants, and even the victim’s family.

Demetria Johnson was jealous over Skinner dating the father of Johnson’s children, Sheriff Heath Taylor told News 3.

That led to her recruiting the other three suspects. Skinner was taken from an apartment in south Columbus and her car was stolen. Police were able to track the vehicle, leading them to the suspects off Porter Road in Russell County. A police chase of more than 90 miles ensued.

The suspects were captured when the car ran out of gas and crashed in Wetumpka. News 3 will continue to follow this developing story.

The four suspects will face kidnapping and robbery charges in Columbus, but the capital murder charges in Alabama take precedent.

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