TUSCUMBIA — A Leeds man charged with killing a Colbert County man in 2008 is now accused of trying to hire someone to kill members of the victim’s family, authorities said.
Derek Terrell Burt, 32, 7820 Martin Luther King Drive, Leeds, was indicted in September on five counts of capital murder in connection with the 2008 shooting death of Harry Ricks Sr., who lived on Gate Six Road near Muscle Shoals.
Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May said deputies recovered a letter Burt is accused of writing that asks the recipient to kill at least two members of Ricks’ family. Burt now faces criminal solicitation charges, May said.
Ricks was killed in November 2008 during a home invasion and robbery. Burt was arrested in July in Birmingham.
May said the letter mentions that two members of the Ricks family saw the person who attacked them without a mask.
The sheriff said the letter contains Ricks’ home address and physical descriptions of family members.
“In the letter, Burt said that ‘without witnesses, the state would not have a case,’ referring to having them killed,” May said. “He also asked the person he was sending the letter to for a ‘two-for-one,’ referring to having two people killed.
“He went on to say there was no need to pay a lawyer a dime when it can be handled with a ‘couple of stacks.’ ”
Stacks is street slang for bullets, May said.
May said Burt is accused of writing in the letter that Burt had money in the bank that he would pay when “the job is done and he got out of jail.”
“He encouraged the person to ‘please take care of this’ so he could get out of jail,” May said.
May said his investigators had several discussions with the district attorney’s office concerning the letter. The sheriff said his investigators and Alabama Bureau of Investigator agents met with the Ricks family and advised them to take precautions.
May said the letter is apparently for someone who lives out of state. He said authorities in that state have been working with his investigators to find the letter’s intended recipient.
“We understand that he may have been trying to contact some additional friends in the Leeds area, and we’ve been trying to identify those people and have them picked up and interviewed,” May said.
The charges Burt is facing in connection with the home invasion include capital murder/robbery, capital murder/burglary and three counts of capital murder/kidnapping.
May said Burt was linked to Ricks’ death by DNA evidence collected at the
Ricks lived at a home in the 1700 block of Gate Six Road in Muscle Shoals.
Burt was arrested July 31 in Birmingham and transported to Colbert County Jail where he has been held since that time, May said.
Authorities said three men armed with guns broke into Ricks’ home during the early morning hours in an apparent robbery attempt. Ricks, 41, was killed as he tried to escape, according to reports.
The robbers used duct tape and zip ties to bind Ricks’ wife and daughter in a bedroom. Ricks’ wife also was hit on the head with a gun, authorities said.
May said statements taken during the investigation indicate the men were trying to rob Ricks because they thought he had a large sum of money at the house.
Burt faces the death penalty if convicted on the capital murder charges.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.