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Murder charge dismissed in shooting death of Trussville man

By Gary Lloyd

A judge on Wednesday, at the request of the prosecution, dismissed a murder charge against a Trussville man in the Nov. 14 shooting death of 81-year-old Ken Millar.

Special Jefferson County District Court Judge Sheila Ann Weil ordered that 53-year-old Freddie Earl Patton be released from Jefferson County Jail after Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Megan Cuckler made a motion to dismiss the case at the case’s preliminary hearing. Jail records show Patton was released at 4:32 p.m. Wednesday. Patton had been charged with intentional murder in the shooting death of Millar, which occurred at a home in the 500 block of Rockridge Avenue in Trussville.

The court order states, “At the request of the Deputy District Attorney, this case is hereby Nol Prossed. All writs or warrants are to be recalled.”

Trussville Police Department Lt. Jeff Bridges said the case will go to a grand jury in January, where an indictment could be returned.

Patton’s attorney, John Lentine, said the prosecution began to object to most of his questions during cross examination of Trussville Police Detective Jamie Goolsby about the details of a medical examiner report on Millar’s death. Lentine said he was trying to question about the autopsy report that showed Millar had powder stipplings on his hands, neck and chin area, something Lentine said he believes corroborates that Millar had either been touching or grabbing the barrel of a gun. Lentine also asked for the medical examiner to be brought in for questioning, he said.

Freddie Earl Patton
photo courtesy of the Trussville Police Department

The prosecution had entered the report into evidence to show that Millar had died. When Cuckler argued that Goolsby couldn’t testify about the report’s details, Lentine said he was trying to show that the evidence suggested that there wasn’t probable cause for a charge of intentional murder. The prosecution then dismissed the charge, opting to present the evidence to a grand jury.

Lentine said that if Patton is indicted, a warrant for his arrest will be issued. Lentine said the prosecution may have been “disturbed” by his questioning if the incident was intentional murder or an accident. He said the evidence could suggest a charge of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

“There was nothing linked to intentional murder that I saw,” Lentine said.

Bridges said that Goolsby testified that Patton’s common law wife told him about what happened leading up to the shooting. When the wife got home from running errands, she and Patton got into a fight, Bridges said. She asked Patton to leave the house and go to the Jimmie Hale Mission, he said.

Patton threw her on a bed, grabbed a pistol and fired a shot into the floor, Bridges said. Her father, Millar, attempted to grab the gun and the gun went off. She ran outside into the woods and called 911 on a cell phone.

Bridges said that Goolsby testified that Patton told him that Millar had a wrench in one hand and that he fired a second shot into the floor to warn Millar off. Patton told Goolsby that as they wrestled for the gun, it went off, Bridges said.

Goolsby testified that Patton also said that he was tired of being blamed for things, Bridges said.

Ken Millar, shown at lunch on a hunting trip last year
photo courtesy of Adam Wiggins

Bridges said that Goolsby testified that an evidence technician at the scene reported three spent shells were found in the .357 revolver.

Millar’s son, Michael, and his wife, Susan, released this letter to The Trussville Tribune:

“We know that although what you are hearing and seeing about Freddie Patton’s preliminary hearing might be somewhat confusing, we are confident that Megan Cuckler of the DA’s office has the best interests of this case at heart. She and Jamie Goolsby of the Trussville PD have been working very hard for us and we truly appreciate it. We are asking that in addition to your prayers for us, that you all also remember Megan and Jamie in your prayers too. We would truly appreciate everyone’s support for Megan and Jamie, as well as everyone else at Jefferson County and the Trussville PD that are working behind the scenes on this case.

“They all need prayers and the support of the community right now. They have been wonderful and we feel that they really are doing their best. We know it seems that things are at a standstill now, but we assure you that these guys are still hard at work for us. Ken Millar was such a wonderful man, and we know he would also want everyone to pray for them and support them.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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