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Opelika man found guilty of murder after two-day trial and about an hour of deliberation
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Opelika man found guilty of murder after two-day trial and about an hour of deliberation

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A Lee County jury found an Opelika man guilty of two counts of murder and one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling Thursday after a two-day trial and a little over an hour of deliberation.

John Willie Maddox, 31, of Opelika, was found guilty of two murder charges in connection to the deaths of Sedric Darrell Lewis, 27, of Opelika, and Derris Terrel Harris, 31, of LaFayette, following their deaths after the shooting on March 25, 2017.

“We’re just happy we can get justice for the victims and their families,” Assistant District Attorney Garrett Saucer said.

Prosecutors said Maddox drove his red Dodge Challenger, along with Jacquavious Greathouse of Auburn, armed with an AR-15 and a 40 caliber pistol to a residence at Toomer Court in Opelika before getting into a shooting incident with the victims.

Prosecutors said the shooting began due to an earlier altercation in which Greathouse was allegedly robbed by the victims, and they said that Maddox hid the car he drove to and from the shooting in a storage unit until police found it.

During closing arguments, Maddox’s defense attorney Elijah Beaver urged the jury not to find the defendant guilty due to what he said was a lack of evidence and witness testimony over the course of the trial to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Maddox personally helped Greathouse shoot and kill the two victims, neither of whom Maddox knew personally, Beaver said.

“Right here as I stand here, I do not know whether Mr. Maddox is being charged as the shooter or as an accomplice,” Beaver told the jury. “Ask yourself right now, do you, beyond a reasonable doubt, have a version of the facts in your mind that was shown by evidence at the witness stand and from the documents? … We don’t have any witnesses that told us what happened except for Mr. Maddox.”

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Beaver said the state couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Maddox took part in the shooting, but argued that it was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.

Prosecutors disagreed and argued that the murders of Lewis and Harris could not have happened without Maddox’s involvement that night. In regards to the lack of witness testimony, prosecutors said they believed there could have been efforts to intimidate witnesses to discourage them from testifying at trial. Prosecutors said the guns used in the shooting as well as the method of transportation away from the shooting were both provided by the defendant, and they suggested that Maddox himself took part in the shooting that night.

“John Willie Maddox was shooting that AR-15, and that AR-15 never left John Willie Maddox’s car,” Saucer told the jury during closing arguments. “These murders could not have happened but for John Willie Maddox and his assistance. … If the physical evidence of how this shooting took place doesn’t convince you that he’s an integral part of this murder, then find him not guilty. It’s not the right verdict. It’s not the right verdict for the Lewis family or the Harris family.”

Following the shooting and deaths of Lewis and Harris, Greathouse turned himself in to the Lee County Jail and was taken into custody in April 2017 while Maddox was arrested and charged by Opelika police two days later.

Greathouse was found guilty of two counts of murder in connection to the March 2017 Opelika double homicide in November 2019, following about an hour of jury deliberation. Greathouse was sentenced to 90 years in prison in July 2020.

A sentencing date for Maddox was set for Oct. 4, and prosecutors said he could be facing a minimum of 20 years up to life in prison after the convictions.

After the jury came back with their verdict, prosecutors thanked the jury for being attentive, Sgt. Alfred White with the Opelika Police Department for his hard work in investigating this case, and the family of the victims.

“This case was unique in what we contend were efforts to tamper with witnesses and intimidate witnesses. We didn’t have anybody we could put on the stand that saw it, but they know who they are and they’re out there,” Saucer said. “But we did it without them, and that should be a message to anybody in this community who thinks they can commit a violent crime and get away with it.”

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