A Decatur man accused of killing and robbing two men on Aug. 19 is in the Morgan County Jail after he was apprehended following a tip from U.S. marshals and a short foot chase just off Interstate 565 in Limestone County on Tuesday night.
Ricardo S. Bass, 40, is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of Mark Allen Nicholson, 54, of Hartselle, and Jeffrey Carden, 31, of Huntsville. Nicholson was gunned down and robbed at a Wavaho gas station in Northwest Decatur while refueling his truck, police said, and Carden was killed 30 minutes earlier in Huntsville.
Authorities said the slayings appear to be unrelated except for the identity of the suspect.
Morgan County sheriff's spokesperson Mike Swafford said Bass is in “administrative housing away from the general population” at the jail. He is being held without bond.
At his initial appearance in district court Wednesday, Bass was granted indigent status and attorneys Catherine Carter and Christy Miller were appointed to represent him.
A preliminary hearing has been set for Sept. 21 at 1:30 p.m.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Decatur police Chief Nate Allen said the U.S. Marshal's Service notified his department and Huntsville police about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday that Bass was believed to be a passenger in a silver Dodge Ram pickup that was headed north toward Decatur from Birmingham.
Allen said the department's vice/narcotics unit traveled to Interstate 65 Exit 334 and observed the suspect’s vehicle as it passed the Priceville/Decatur exit traveling northbound.
He said the vehicle exited from I-65 North onto I-565 East toward Huntsville, and “we believed they noticed our unmarked police vehicles following them.”
“The vehicle came to an abrupt stop at County Line Road. Bass jumped out, and the vehicle kept going,” Allen said. “Our officers converged on the wooded area where Bass ran. Our fear was that we would lose Bass. He was our primary target.”
Armed Decatur police Officer Brandon Sain ran Bass down, Allen said.
“It was a short pursuit, maybe about one or two minutes,” said Sain, a 13-year veteran of the Decatur Police Department. “It was extremely muddy.”
Sain said he followed Bass over an 8-foot barbed wire fence and caught him about 200 yards away.
“He quit running and gave up,” Sain said. Allen declined to say if Bass was armed when apprehended.
Allen said the driver of the pickup carrying Bass has not been charged.
“We don’t have the driver in custody at this time,” he said. “Our main focus was getting Bass. We can always go back later and get the driver. ... It took some very creative police work and leg work to make the arrest.”
He said cooperation from Huntsville Police Department, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the Madison and Morgan district attorneys' offices was vital in capturing Bass.
Huntsville Deputy Police Chief Dewayne McCarver, who attended the news conference, said investigations are just beginning in the case and it would be premature to disclose some facts and evidence.
“There’s still a lot of work to do. The investigation is ongoing,” McCarver said. “There are lots of pieces to the puzzle. We don’t want to get into the details yet because it’s very, very early. Now the criminal justice system can do its job to bring justice to the families.”
Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson said he expects a grand jury to indict Bass.
“We hope to obtain an indictment on several counts of capital murder,” he said.
Anderson said two separate trials would be held on the cases because they occurred in two jurisdictions, Morgan and Madison counties. He said it will be at least two years before the Morgan case would go to trial.
Anderson said he did not know which county would try Bass first. “He will remain in Morgan County Jail, but we won't hoard him,” he said.
A capital murder conviction in Alabama is punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Anderson said Nicholson died of multiple gunshot wounds near a gas pump at the Wavaho station at 707 Wilson St. N.W. in Decatur at about 6:20 a.m. on Aug. 19.
An affidavit filed by Decatur police Detective Joshua Daniell said video and witness statements identified Bass as the suspect who “searched (Nicholson's) body after shooting him and took property from him.”
A witness told authorities Bass left the gas station going west on Wilson Street in a small white vehicle. The vehicle was discovered about an hour later abandoned in the 110 block of 12th Avenue Northwest.
At the news conference, Allen said the vehicle’s “registration is part of the investigation. (The vehicle) was not stolen.”
A half hour before the fatal shooting in Decatur, Huntsville police received a call of a homicide and robbery on McVay Street, southwest of the Huntsville Metro Kiwanis Sports Plex, according to Huntsville police spokesperson Sydney Martin.
Martin said Carden was fatally shot in a parking lot on McVay Street when he was picking up a coworker for work.
According to court records, at the time of the two shootings Bass was out of jail on a $200,000 bond on a first-degree robbery charge from an incident that took place at a Texaco station on Sixth Avenue Northeast in Decatur on April 14.
Anderson and McCarver said their offices have reached out to the slaying victims’ families.
“I understand there is nothing I can say or do to relieve you of your pain but continue to pray for you,” Anderson said in a message to the families. “I hope at the end of the day, the justice we’re able to obtain for you in some way gives you some amount of closure.”
Allen said he is not sure if the $5,000 reward offered by the U.S. Marshal’s Service for tips leading to the arrest of Bass will be distributed.
Allen said he hasn’t seen a double killing such as this case in his six years as Decatur’s police chief.
Decatur police have worked a dozen homicides in 2021, according to Anderson.