Capital case headed to grand jury
The case of a Franklin County man charged with capital murder was officially bound over to the grand jury following a preliminary hearing on Monday afternoon.
Angel Campos Nava, 33, 1948 Franklin 48, Lot 13, Russellville, was officially charged with murder in the Feb. 22 death of 25-year-old Lesley Hope Plott, who he had been involved in a relationship with off and on since 2003.
Those charges were upgraded to capital murder on Feb. 25 when new evidence was discovered that allegedly proved part of the attack that led to Plott’s death occurred inside her vehicle, which Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing said gave law enforcement grounds to upgrade the charge to capital murder.
During the preliminary hearing on Monday, it was revealed that the new evidence law enforcement had obtained was a surveillance video from Good Shepherd Catholic Church located in the 1700 block of Jackson Avenue in Russellville, which was close to where the murder took place.
Russellville Police investigator Lt. Scotty Lowery testified the video was turned over by church authorities who had reviewed surveillance tapes which showed what they believed to be the crime taking place.
Lowery said Plott and Nava had allegedly been at Plott’s mother’s house the evening of Feb. 21 when he woke her up in the early morning hours of Feb. 22 and demanded she take him to his vehicle so he could go to work.
Lowery said during the drive was when the argument and murder apparently took place.
Lowery said upon viewing the video, he could see a black SUV come to an abrupt stop in the southbound lane of Jackson Avenue in front of Good Shepherd Catholic Church and two subjects inside the vehicle appeared to be making lots of movement.
“After about one to two minutes, the driver’s side door flies open and we see what appears to be a female fall out of the vehicle,” Lowery said.
“We then see what appears to be a male walk behind the vehicle and pin the female in between the door and the vehicle.”
Lowery said what ensued was a “violent struggle” in the middle of the road that led to Plott’s death.
Lowery said a preliminary autopsy reported listed the cause of death as deep incise wounds to the neck and revealed Plott had also been badly beaten in the face.
Lowery said a knife handle was found in the roadway near a large amount of blood and the knife blade had been found a short distance away.
Lowery said three other knives were found in the console of Plott’s SUV that had fresh blood on them as well.
“[Following the attack], we see the male attempt to pick the body up and put it in the rear driver’s side door [but doesn’t succeed],” Lowery said.
“We then see the male drag the female’s body out of view and the male gets in the vehicle and leaves.”
Lowery testified the video shows that approximately 20 minutes later, Nava returned to the scene in the same black SUV.
Lowery said Nava got out of the vehicle and went over to where the victim’s body had been found in a ditch near the Catholic church and then he gets back in the car where officers later found him.
Lowery said they received a 911 call at 1:53 a.m. stating there was possibly someone deceased near Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
Lowery said when Off. Chad Sheffield and Off. Michael Miller arrived on the scene, they encountered Nava, who was in the driver’s seat of the black SUV.
Lowery said Nava allegedly told Sheffield he had killed his wife before they noticed he had what appeared to be self-inflicted knife wounds that ultimately caused him to remain in the ICU of Huntsville Hospital for several days following the incident.
Lowery testified a large amount of blood had also been discovered at Nava’s residence on Franklin 48 when officers were executing a search warrant.
Lowery said investigators in the case believe Nava came back to his residence during the time he was gone from the scene of the crime.
ABI investigator Brian Faulkner testified concerning statements he received from Plott’s friends, who all had knowledge of prior of abuse and threats that had allegedly taken place between the couple.
Faulkner said the perceived catalyst for the fatal argument on Feb. 22 was Plott’s recent involvement with an old boyfriend, who was also the father of one of her children.
Faulkner said that witness stated he and Plott had seen Nava at a youth basketball game three weeks prior to her death and Nava had told them they would both pay for getting back together.
Faulkner said a co-worker of Plott’s also stated Plott had told her Nava had said several times if he couldn’t be with her then no one would.
He said the co-worker stated Nava had threatened Plott with a knife in the past.
“She said Plott told her she woke up one night and felt something cold on her throat,” Faulkner said.
“She said he had been drinking and he said he should just cut her throat right then.”
Following witness testimony, Rushing asked District Judge Paula McDowell to bind the case over as a capital murder case since a portion of the attack occurred inside Plott’s vehicle and he believed there was case precedent to show that was enough probable cause for capital murder.
However, Birmingham defense attorney Freddy Rubio told McDowell that if the case were to be bound over to the grand jury, it should be bound over as a homicide – either manslaughter or murder – and not capital murder since he believed Alabama’s statute to mean that the death must actually occur inside the vehicle for charges to be upgraded to capital murder.
“Based on the evidence and testimony, what happened inside the vehicle amounts to an argument and at the most a struggle,” Rubio said. “That’s not evidence of murder inside the vehicle.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, McDowell found enough probable cause to bind the case over as a capital murder case.
Rushing said the case would now be scheduled for an upcoming grand jury session where jurors will decide if enough evidence is available to indict Nava on the charge of capital murder.
Nava remains in custody at the Franklin County jail without bond.