GUNTERSVILLE — A former Decatur resident accused of killing a couple in their Marshall County home in 2015 after they gave him and an accomplice $60 in an act of kindness was found guilty Monday of five counts of capital murder.
The sentencing phase will begin today for Jeffery Lee McKelvey, 49, who was charged in the Sept. 10, 2015, deaths of Denie Oliver Tucker, 68, and Pamela Cordes Tucker, 64, in their Pea Ridge Road home near Albertville. McKelvey was arrested Nov. 21, 2015, in Decatur.
The Marshall County jury returned its verdict about an hour after given its instructions by Circuit Court Judge Tim Riley.
One of the primary witnesses during the trial was Henry Pyle, who accepted a plea deal in the slayings in 2016 and agreed to testify against McKelvey. Pyle was given a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder.
Video testimony from Pyle was played for the jury last week. The testimony was recorded in March because of Pyle’s failing health.
Kevin Hanson, McKelvey’s attorney, told the jury in his opening statement that Pyle had given as many as eight different statements since the slaying and pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Pyle testified that before living in various motels in the Birmingham area, he rented a trailer in April 2015 in Double Springs, in Winston County. McKelvey lived with him in the trailer. The two worked together at a company building mobile homes but ended up unemployed. Pyle said they both used cocaine daily.
They began “working a gas hustle” to get money to support their drug habits, Pyle testified. The two traveled Interstate 65 from Franklin, Tennessee, to Mobile but targeted the Birmingham area where their drug source was located. They stopped at hotel and restaurant parking lots, and Pyle approached their targets telling his story.
He would claim his daughter was in the hospital in another state, and he needed gas money to get to her. Part of the hustle was that he would say he would pay them back. The men split the money evenly and used it to pay bills and buy cocaine, according to Pyle’s testimony.
When someone gave them gas rather than money, they used gas cans to siphon it and sell it to their drug sources. Pyle said he and McKelvey were parked at the Cracker Barrel in Cullman the day they initially encountered the Tuckers, who pulled into the space beside them.
Pamela Tucker got out first and headed toward the restaurant. Pyle testified he ran the hustle as they were standing between the two trucks, and Denie Tucker gave him $60. He guessed that between the money in Denie Tucker’s pocket and in his wallet that he had $10,000.
When Pyle insisted he wanted to pay him back later, Denie Tucker gave him a business card. At that point, the men were looking for an easier way to get more cash, Pyle said. They agreed to and planned the robbery, obtaining a gun from their drug dealer.
Since the Tuckers’ address was on the business card, Pyle looked up directions on his phone. They devised a plan for Pyle to knock on the door and present the $60 back to Denie Tucker. McKelvey, carrying the pistol, would stand behind Pyle and push them both inside when the door was opened.
They arrived at the home around dusk. The glass storm door was closed but the main door was open. Pamela Tucker answered the door and walked back toward the kitchen. Denie Tucker came to the door and the two men pushed their way in. Pamela Tucker began screaming and ran down the hall with McKelvey chasing her, according to Pyle.
Denie Tucker ran outside, with Pyle following him. Pyle caught up to him, pushed him and they hit the ground. Pyle said he then heard two “pops” from inside the house. He said he told Denie Tucker he was not trying to hurt him, only to take things from his house. McKelvey then came outside and marched Denie Tucker back into the house with the pistol to his back.
Inside, Pyle testified, he heard another “pop” and Denie Tucker was lying on the floor. The men looked through the house taking cash, jewelry and guns. Pyle said they left with a total of $19,980.
On their return trip to Birmingham, Pyle said, he tossed the pistol used in the crime over a bridge on Alabama 169.
Testimony during the trial last week also showed a fingerprint expert matched a fingerprint found at the Tuckers’ home with McKelvey.
Corey Brown, lead investigator for the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, testified that items taken from the Tucker home, including jewelry, were found at several different pawn shops in the Birmingham area and linked to McKelvey and Pyle. A necklace owned by Pamela Tucker was found in the possession of a prostitute who spent some time with Pyle, Brown said.
Dr. Stephen Boudreau, senior state medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery, testified Pam Tucker had three gunshot wounds — to the chest, left shoulder and right arm — and the wound in the chest was fatal. Denie Tucker died from a single gunshot wound to the back, Boudreau said.