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Troy Hester found guilty of murder

Jury doesn't believe Allison Brownell killed herself

POSTED: March 20, 2009 11:32 p.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Deputy Mark Mitchell handcuffs Solomon V. Hester on Friday morning after his guilty verdict is read in Hall County Superior Court.

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Troy Hester said his girlfriend shot herself, but a Hall County jury didn’t buy it.

Hester, 32, was convicted Friday of murder in the October 2007 shooting death of 30-year-old Allison Brownell. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated five hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

Hester showed no visible reaction as the verdict was announced. A number of friends and family members sat silently behind him in the gallery.

Some of Brownell’s family members wept quietly and embraced following the verdict.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Brownell’s father, John Hunter of Ringgold, said after the two-week trial concluded. “It’s been a long time. Obviously, we’re pleased with the jury’s verdict.”

Hunter praised the work of Hall County’s assistant district attorneys, Jennifer Bagwell and Kelley Robertson.

“I could not be more pleased with Jennifer and Kelley,” he said. “They handled the case with respect to Allison.”

The prosecution focused on statements Hester made to investigators following the shooting, as well as a witness account from Brownell’s 10-year-old daughter, who heard the two quarreling in their Belvedere Drive home just before a shot rang out.

Destiny Brownell testified during the trial she did not see a gun in her mother’s hand when she investigated the noise. When first responders arrived after Hester called 911, they found a .40-caliber handgun under the shooting victim’s left hand.

Prosecutors argued to the jury that the gun was planted by Hester.

Hester’s attorneys, Northeast Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Brad Morris and Brett Willis, put up a defense in the case, calling two experts and several other witnesses to testify. Hester did not take the witness stand.

A forensic pathologist from Alabama testified for the defense that Brownell’s injuries appeared to be self-inflicted. A widely-respected blood spatter expert’s testimony contradicted the theory of a prosecution witness.

But the jury sided with the state’s case, which included several witnesses who testified that the evidence, including the position of Brownell’s body and her injuries, did not point to suicide. “We never believed it from day one,” the victim’s father said.

District Attorney Lee Darragh said afterward, “Justice has been served and the tragic murder of Allison Brownell has been vindicated. The state thanks the jury.”

Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver deferred sentencing to a later date at the request of the defense. Hester, who was free on bond during the trial, was immediately handcuffed following the guilty verdict and later taken to the Hall County jail pending sentencing.



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