Hollywood, Ala., man sentenced to 45 years for woman's death

Hollywood, Ala., man sentenced to 45 years for woman's death

October 11th, 2017 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

Terrance Austin

Terrance Austin

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A 29-year-old Alabama man has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for the July 2016 slaying of an 88-year-old woman.

Terrance J. Austin, of Hollywood, Ala., on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to the murder of Ruby Durham, Circuit Court Clerk Donna Barksdale said Wednesday. The sentence was handed down by Judge Jennifer Holt.

Austin was given credit for having already served 443 days in jail since he was taken into custody by authorities in Marion County, Tenn., a day before Durham's body was discovered by Scottsboro police at her East Willow Street home.

The series of events that led to the charges in Marion County began at 11:30 a.m. CDT on July 21, 2016, when Jasper police found a light blue Oldsmobile burning in the driveway of a home on Browder Switch Road. Another call at 2:30 p.m. the same day led Jasper police to a man reportedly intoxicated and distraught walking through town. That man was later identified as Austin, Jasper Police Lt. Scott Evans said at the time of Austin's initial arrest in Tennessee.

When officers found him, Austin told officers "that he wanted to die, that he needed to die, that he was ready to go see God. He told us he deserved to lose his life because he had taken a life in Scottsboro" and, at one point, Austin put his hands behind his back and "asked us to shoot him," Evans said in 2016.

Austin voluntarily took Jasper officers to the burned car on Browder Switch Road and told them he set it on fire.

However, at that point, Durham's body hadn't been found and wouldn't be for another day. Jasper police said at the time that Scottsboro officers conducted a welfare check on July 22 at Durham's home and discovered her inside. About the same time, the Tennessee Highway Patrol traced ownership of the light blue Oldsmobile to Durham, which helped tie Austin to Durham's death.

Austin was extradited back across the state line to face the murder charge and was held on a $1 million bond.

In Tennessee, Austin still has lingering charges of vandalism, arson, simple possession of a controlled substance and theft over $1,000, according to jail records.

Twelfth Judicial District Attorney General Mike Taylor said it's likely "we will decline further prosecution on the Tennessee charges."

Taylor said he would first contact Jackson County District Attorney Jason Rupert Pierce to "find out the nature of the sentence down there and the potential for parole" in Austin's sentencing under Alabama law.

"I will have to discuss it with my staff and we'll make a final decision then," Taylor said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

This story was updated Oct. 11 at 11:59 p.m.