Caldwell pleads to lesser offense

By Michelle Mann

mmann@southeastsun.com

An Elba man charged with a 2017 murder in Enterprise pleaded guilty to a lesser offense at a hearing before Circuit Judge Shannon Clark Nov. 13.

Ted Carstiel Caldwell, 33, pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the shooting death of Marcus Eugene Virghes, 39, also of Elba, that occurred at 1451 Shellfield Road in Enterprise in the early morning hours of April 9, 2017.

Caldwell was sentenced to 12 months in the Coffee County Jail on each charge. He is ordered to serve 168 days after which he will placed on probation for 24 months, according to Clark’s ruling.

Caldwell had remained free on $100,000 bond.

At a preliminary hearing July 17, 2017, Enterprise Police Department Detective Will Ezell told the court that he was called to the rental property after midnight in response to reports of a shooting that occurred during a party and cookout at the residence.

Ezell said that Virghes was lying dead near the entry of the garage with two gunshots to the chest. An autopsy report determined that a head wound Virghes had was later determined, through an autopsy, to have been caused by his fall to the garage floor. The cause of death was reported to be “homicide by gunshot wounds to the chest,” Ezell said.

Witnesses told police that Virghes and Caldwell’s brother, both of whom had been drinking alcohol, had been arguing when Caldwell intervened.

One witness told Ezell that Virghes pulled up his shirt to show that he had a gun in his waistband. At that point, the witness told police, she heard a round “get racked” into a gun and saw Caldwell shoot twice from his gun.

Another witness told police that there had been a previous altercation between Caldwell and Virghes in December, during which Caldwell allegedly shot Virghes in one of his hands.

Ezell said that Caldwell was not at the Shellfield Road residence when police arrived but that he did come to the EPD to be interviewed later.

Caldwell told police that Virghes had been “staring at him kind of funny,” prior to the shooting and had pulled up his shirt to show Caldwell his weapon.

Caldwell told police he shot Virghes twice after Virghes pulled his gun out, Ezell said. Caldwell told police that the person who had driven him to the party then drove him from the party. Ezell told the court that Caldwell declined to tell police where he went after the Shellfield Road party but that data analysis of Caldwell’s cellphone showed his location to be “within yards” of the Daleville Avenue Lounge.

Caldwell told police he threw the gun into the river near Elba, Ezell said, adding despite the efforts of law enforcement dive teams, the gun has not been recovered.

Caldwell’s attorney, Joe Cassady Jr., told Ezell that Virghes had a prior felony conviction and suggested that his client had pulled his weapon out of caution and self-defense during the altercation. “My question is pretty simple,” Cassady told Ezell at the 2017 hearing. “If you knew that someone had been convicted wouldn’t you pull out your weapon?”

Ezell did not answer Cassady’s rhetorical question but told Cassady that although the police investigation was at that time continuing, “I am satisfied that it was Ted Caldwell who committed the murder.”

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