FLORENCE — A witness in the murder trial of Alfred Shawn Johnson testified today he saw Johnson and his brother, Shannon Ray Johnson, beating Keith Barnett outside a bar just across the Tennessee line on the night when Barnett was found unconscious on Alabama 17 in Lauderdale County.
Barnett was found lying on the road on July 29, 2000. Barnett, 22, never regained consciousness and died Sept. 21, 2000.
Robert Gillespie testified he saw Barnett and both Johnsons inside Little Sands bar earlier in the night. Later that evening, Gillespie and his girlfriend were leaving the bar because his girlfriend was sick.
He testified he put her in his vehicle and went to an area outside behind the bar to use the bathroom when he noticed an altercation involving the Johnson brothers and Barnett.
“Keith was hollering for someone to help him,” Gillespie said, during questioning by Lauderdale Assistant District Attorney Angie Hamilton.
He testified Barnett was on his knees while Shannon Johnson hit him with what looked like a T-ball bat and Shawn Johnson kicked him. The brothers noticed Gillespie and asked if he wanted to be next, so Gillespie went back to his vehicle.
He saw the brothers carry Barnett into their pickup, Gillespie testified.
Gillespie then drove across the state line to a convenience store, where he called his grandfather, told him what he saw and that the Johnsons were involved. He noticed the brothers were within his sight in their vehicle while he was making the call. The brothers then drove back up Alabama 17.
During testimony earlier in the day, Jessie Rickard said he saw Barnett unconscious on Alabama 17, near the Tennessee line.
Rickard said he was at Little Sands that night and left around 1-1:30 a.m. He said he drove south and saw what looked like a body just after crossing the state line. The head was on the white line alongside the road and feet were pointed toward the road.
Rickard said the person was unconscious and looked like he had been beaten. He said he knew Barnett but didn’t recognize him because of the condition of his face.
Defense attorney Dustin McCown, who along with Jamy Poss is representing Shawn Johnson, said during opening statements there are a lot of “unanswered questions” and forensics officials found no evidence in the brothers’ truck. There also was no blood found outside Little Sands, McCown said.
Johnson, 42, and his brother, Shannon Ray Johnson, 43, were arrested in May 2011, almost 10 years after Barnett was found.
Shannon Johnson, who also was charged with murder at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year and agreed to testify against his brother. Shannon Johnson received a 20-year prison sentence, the maximum penalty for manslaughter.