Russell trial to begin Friday, DA seeking death penalty

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA — Prosecutors and defense attorneys finished questioning potential jurors Wednesday afternoon in the capital murder trial of an Inverness man accused of killing an 11-year-old girl in June 2008.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Bostick said jury selection has been ongoing since Monday morning and has extended over several days because the prosecutors were trying to gauge potential jurors views on the death penalty.

“We needed to know if they would at least consider it,” Bostick said.

Bostick said the prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in this trial, making it the first death penalty case to be tried in the county since 2000.

Shelby County Circuit Judge Michael Joiner dismissed the jury pool today with instructions to return Friday morning at 9 a.m., Bostick said.

At that time prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and three alternates. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Friday morning soon after the jurors are in place. First witnesses will be called that same day.

Bostick said he expects the trial might conclude sometime the week of Nov. 22.

Russell

The defendant, 37-year-old Ryan Gerald Russell has pleaded not guilty.

Russell is accused of killing Katherine Helene Gillespie June 16, 2008 in his home at 5048 Kerry Downs Road. Gillespie’s body was found stuffed in a trash can which was found inside an SUV in the garage of the home.

After performing an autopsy, authorities concluded Gillespie had been sexually abused and died of a .40-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

Russell was in the process of trying to adopt Gillespie who was living with him at the time.

The last person to stand trial in Shelby County with a possible death penalty was Allen Eugene Miller, a triple homicide case that Bostick called the “Pelham workplace slaying.”

Miller, a delivery truck driver, was convicted and sentenced to death for shooting and killing three people at two businesses in Pelham in 1999.