One of the two men charged in the Feb. 25 murder of Michael Irvin Jr. claims he is innocent and that a witness who recently joined him in jail falsified a statement to police in order to get a reward.
Zachary Bernard Williams, whose indictment for capital murder was announced last week by the Morgan County District Attorney’s Office, is being held in the Morgan County Jail without bond. He filed the handwritten appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals last month in an effort to have a bond amount set.
“I was arrested on hearsay,” Williams wrote. “A guy that I know named Brian Wiggins went to detectives and made up a story because he found out there was a reward for whomever had info about the case.”
District Attorney Scott Anderson said Thursday his office had not offered a reward. Irvin's aunt told reporters in March that his friends had offered a $25,000 reward for an arrest in the case.
Williams, 31, and co-defendant Ulysses Ke’Andre Wilkerson, 19, were arrested almost six weeks after Irvin’s shooting death at his home in the 1600 block of Marion Street Southwest in Decatur. Both were charged with capital murder. At the preliminary hearing in April, Decatur police Detective Sean Mukaddam testified Brian Oneal Wiggins approached police and said Williams had confessed to the crime, providing details that matched the crime scene.
Wiggins, 37, told Mukaddam that Irvin charged Williams after Williams broke in the front door, and Williams immediately shot him.
“Irvin continued to fight like the bullets weren’t fazing him,” Williams told Wiggins, Mukaddam testified. The alleged confession was not recorded.
According to police affidavits, Wiggins first came to police April 4. In 2012 he was classified as a habitual offender after a fifth felony conviction. He currently is in Morgan County Jail without bond on federal charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. His bond was denied last month after a judge determined he had a prior criminal history, had engaged in criminal activity while on probation or parole, and had a history of violence or use of weapons.
"Mr. Wiggins has an extensive criminal record ...," Tom DiGiulian, one of Williams' lawyers, said in an email Thursday. "That would certainly damage his credibility."
The other main piece of evidence discussed by Mukaddam at the preliminary hearing was a roll of duct tape in the foyer of Irvin’s house, which Irvin’s fiancee said did not belong there. A forensic analysis obtained April 1 revealed Wilkerson’s DNA on the tape, Mukaddam said. Wilkerson denied involvement in the murder but said he might have touched the tape while it was in Williams’ car, Mukaddam testified.
Wilkerson remains in the Morgan County Jail, but no grand jury indictment has been announced.
Mukaddam acknowledged at the preliminary hearing that there was no forensic evidence linking Williams to the duct tape, and that no fingerprints matching either defendant were found in Irvin’s home. The two security systems in the house failed to record the intrusion.
"Of course, we believe that the evidence in this case is very thin," DiGiulian said. "There is no physical evidence to tie Mr. Williams to the offense, and he has consistently denied any involvement in the incident. We believe that he will be vindicated at trial."
In his appeal, which he wrote without the assistance of his counsel, Williams said his incarceration is unjust.
“I came to detectives and talked on my own and they’re now trying to pin a murder on me that I did not commit,” Williams wrote. “I’m having to sit in here not being able to help my counsel prove my innocence, plus I have children that I was taking care of for them to take me away from them for no reason.”
According to police affidavits, Irvin had two children — a 4-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son — who were in his house at 2:05 a.m. when he was killed. He also predeceased another daughter, his parents, and several brothers and sisters.
Irvin did not go down easy, according to Mukaddam’s testimony and affidavits. He was shot 11 times, first at the front door and then throughout the house until he died in the laundry room near the back door.
Mukaddam testified that Williams and Irvin were acquainted and had a shared interest in gambling. He testified police found $15,000 in Irvin’s bedroom after the shooting, and police affidavits filed in the case suggest a robbery motive.
Williams was found guilty of first-degree robbery after a 2009 robbery in which police said he shot his victim in both legs in an armed robbery near Eighth Street Southwest and Moulton Heights in Decatur. He was sentenced to 20 years, but court records indicate he was released in 2016. At the time of the 2009 shooting, police said, he was out on bail for a 2008 shooting at Wilson Morgan Park.
Numerous search warrants have been executed in the case, most focused on Feb. 24-28 cellphone data that included cell tower locations that were utilized by any transmissions from the cellphones, GPS data, text messages, and the time and duration of phone calls.
The collected information is so voluminous that Williams’ appointed attorneys, DiGiulian and James Mason Jr., last week filed a motion with the court seeking funding to purchase two external hard drives.
The request came after they received an email from Chief Assistant District Attorney Paul Matthews, who explained that prosecutors had compiled evidence in the case and were ready to provide it to the defense teams, but there was so much data it had to be transferred digitally.
“When you supply us with an external hard drive with at least 4 terabytes of space we will copy the information we have onto it and return to you,” Matthews wrote.