CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Theories have changed about how a triple slaying was carried out here on Valentine’s Day 1999, and the state is revamping its case against three suspects.
“This is a brand new case,” Judge Amy Reedy said Friday in Bradley County Criminal Court.
Maurice Alexander Johnson, 28, and Mike “Money” Younger, 33, still could face the death penalty if convicted for the execution-style slayings of Cayci Higgins, 19, Dawn Rogers, 25, and O.J. Blair, 18.
New seven-count grand jury indictments read in court Friday charge both men with murder, conspiracy and new counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. Previous indictments against Mr. Johnson and Mr. Younger were dismissed.
The sole survivor of the shootings, Twanna “Tart” Blair, is accused of helping orchestrate the slayings and is charged with perjury and conspiracy. She was arraigned Friday on the new charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, as well.
The new charges halt plans for a September trial and scrap dozens of defense motions that had been filed.
“We start completely over,” said attorney Steve Ward, who represents Mr. Johnson. “The new indictments, I don’t know that they change the facts of what the state is trying to prove, but it definitely changes some of the legal issues, and we are going to have to re-evaluate how we are going to defend this.”
District Attorney General Steve Bebb said the state is trying to build a conspiracy case in hopes of trying Mr. Johnson and Mr. Younger together. Defense attorneys have said they want separate trials.
Mr. Bebb said there is new information also in the case.
“We changed our theory a little bit about the way things happened,” Mr. Bebb said. “This one has lingered around since 1999, and it seems like every week or two we get some sort of new evidence presented to us. We would like to get it right.”
Judge Reedy gave defense attorneys until June 27 to file new motions in the case. A new trial date hasn’t been set.
Judge Reedy ordered in March that victims’ families not speak to the media.