Pelham man sentenced to life in prison for 2012 triple-murder

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2014

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA—A Pelham man will spend his life in prison after being convicted of five capital murder charges for the 2012 killings of Simeon Gilmore, 19, Casey Cumberland, 22, and Joshua Smith, 22.

Jon Staggs Jr.

Jon Staggs Jr.

Jon Ingram Staggs Jr., was sentenced life in prison without parole and waived his right to appeal after Judge Dan Reeves announced the defense and prosecution reached an agreement on Oct. 21.

Staggs was found guilty of five counts of capital murder in the Sept. 9, 2012, homicides of Gilmore, Cumberland and Smith. Each capital conviction carries a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.

Staggs waived his right to sentencing by jury by accepting the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and waiving “any and all rights to appeal… as part of the agreement,” Reeves explained.

“I’m sorry for bringing you all in here and causing all of this,” Staggs said in remarks after Reeves explained the terms of his agreement and sentence. “I’ve been called evil and arrogant and that’s not who I really am… One minute has really defined my 20 years… I’m sorry that it all happened this way… Drugs will change somebody.”

A post-trial agreement of this kind is uncommon, although not unheard of, Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee explained.

“I’ve never seen it, but in trying to research it from a legal standpoint, I don’t know that it’s uncommon,” Lee said, noting her team was able to uncover previous examples of such agreements.

The agreement effectively ends the case, both defense attorney Herbie Brewer and Lee explained, noting there will be no possibility of appealing or overturning the case.

“When there is a death sentence… appeals go on and on and on… there are no assurances that a case won’t be overturned,” Lee said.

“This case ended today… for all these families,” Brewer said.

The families of the victims were consulted before the sentencing agreement was reached, both Brewer and Lee confirmed.

“It’s tough, but for our families, this gives them closure,” Lee said. “They can heal, they need to heal, and as one family said, ‘My family member can rest in peace.’”

Staggs was turned over to state custody and began serving his sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole immediately.

“This case certainly represents a tragedy in every respect,” Brewer said. “Three young men lost their lives, one young man’s life hung in the balance.”

“These are good kind people, all of the families involved,” Lee said.

The Oct. 21 sentencing ends a more than two-year process of investigation, preparation and trial following the Sept. 9, 2012, deaths of Gilmore, Cumberland and Smith.

“We start to prepare a case from the moment it happens, one of our assistants was on scene,” Lee said, noting Assistant District Attorney Jeff Bradley had worked on the case since the beginning. “These cases are labor-intensive, as they should be. They carry the strictest punishment that law allows… This is a huge case and doing it right is important.”