published Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Murder charges filed in Alabama shooting death

Michael Townsel Jr., left; Delia Downs, center; and Christopher Cagle
Michael Townsel Jr., left; Delia Downs, center; and Christopher Cagle
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Alabama trio arrested in connection with the death of a 38-year-old man and charged last week with kidnapping now faces more charges in Marshall County.

In addition to kidnapping charges, Albertville, Ala., resident Christopher Todd Cagle, 28, and Michael Stanley Townsel Jr., 28, of Fort Payne, each now are charged with murder in the slaying of Gary Lee Willis. Delia May Downs, 33, of Albertville, Ala., now is charged with hindering prosecution in addition to the kidnapping charge against her, according to Marshall County Sheriff's Office Lt. Heath Thomas.

All three are being held at the Marshall County Jail on $1 million bonds.

Willis was shot multiple times with a small-caliber handgun on Baker Road east of Boaz, Thomas said Friday. The lieutenant said he couldn't elaborate on how Willis' vehicle got to Geraldine in DeKalb County, where it was found burning on County Road 135 on Dec. 17. Willis' body was discovered inside after firefighters extinguished the flames.

"Those facts are still being gathered," he said. Investigators believe nothing other than the car was taken from Willis, he said.

"The most important thing to know is that those responsible for the murder are in custody and there are no other suspects surrounding the death," Thomas said. "In the future, the grand jury could consider upgrading the charges to capital murder against Townsel and Cagle."

Authorities say they established that Willis had been at a home on Old McVille Road -- off Alabama Highway 75 -- near the Marshall-DeKalb county line on Dec. 13, and he was taken from that location against his will.

Family members had reported Willis missing Dec. 16 in Etowah County, officials there said.

Townsel, Cagle and Downs also face drug charges in DeKalb County, associated with searches made during the investigation.

Five other people were arrested in connection with drugs found during a search warrant operation and consensual searches by investigators during the homicide investigation in DeKalb County. One other man was charged with failure to appear in court on a previous charge.

The investigation is continuing.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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