Attorneys schedule next trial date in Lookout Valley triple homicide

Attorneys schedule next trial date in Lookout Valley triple homicide

October 2nd, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 5/28/14. Derek Morse, 19, middle and Skylar Allen, 22, right, sit in Judge Christie Mahn Sell's courtroom while having their case bound over to the grand jury both being charged in the April 9 triple murder in Lookout Valley.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Attorneys Monday scheduled the next trial date in the 2014 Lookout Valley triple homicide, days after one defendant was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Skyler Allen will stand trial in Hamilton County Criminal Court on April 10 in the slayings of Caleb Boozer, John Lang and Jon Morris. The 25-year-old faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Allen went to a trailer on Kellys Ferry Road on April 9, 2014, with Derek Morse and opened fire on four men sitting outside. Only Matthew Callan, then 16, survived the onslaught. A third man, Jacob Allison, has a court date later this week for his alleged involvement as a getaway driver. Allison also faces three counts of first-degree murder and was a minor at the time of the crime.

Though they are not seeking the death penalty, prosecutors said Morse committed mass murder and should never walk free again. After eight days of proof, jurors agreed Wednesday and stripped Morse of any chance at parole. In Tennessee, Morse would have been eligible for release after 51 years.

Allen's case may have a different trajectory.

Defense attorney Ben McGowan has said the state's proof against Allen is weaker and relies on more circumstancial evidence. That's part of the reason why he asked for Allen and Morse to be tried separately, which prosecutors agreed to.

McGowan also asked for Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to reconsider Allen's bond, which was $3.5 million.

"Mr. Allen is currently detained on a cummulative surety bond of $3,500,000, which is excessive and tantamount to holding defendant without bond in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment," McGowan wrote in a June motion.

McGowan cited Allen's criminal history, which didn't exist before these charges, and said the case was unlikely to result in conviction, "so that he would have little incentive or desire to flee."

Skyler Allen

Skyler Allen

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Judge Steelman hasn't ruled one way or another, but McGowan said Tuesday he plans to pad his argument with evidence from Morse's trial.

As in Morse's trial, identity will be a hard-fought issue in Allen's case.

McGowan argued in a previous June hearing that no eyewitness can place his client at the crime scene. About two months later, prosecutors said they planned to introduce cellphone records for a number associated with Allen.

It's unclear if or how prosecutors will use that evidence, but a different 2016 murder case provides a good example. In that case, prosecutors argued that cellphone records placed Christopher Padgett, who was accused of murdering a cab driver, in the same area of the 2012 homicide at the time it occurred. The next day, Padgett cut his ankle monitor and bolted in the middle of trial.

Allison, who was 15 at the time of the 2014 homicide, is scheduled to appear Wednesday before Steelman. Prosecutors added him to their witness list for Morse's trial but ended up calling his half brother, Michael Shavers, who testified about hiding the alleged murder weapons with Allison and a third friend.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.


This story was updated Oct. 2 at 11:55 p.m. with more information.


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