Hunter's murder conviction upheld

Malcolm Hunter

The murder conviction of an Enterprise man sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole has been upheld in higher court. 

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that June 28 the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the murder conviction of Malcolm Hunter, 31, who was convicted after 45 minutes of deliberation by a seven man and seven woman Coffee County jury May 2018 for the murder of Ayanna Nneka Smith, 26.

Smith disappeared from her Enterprise home on Jan. 21, 2017. She was last seen in the company of Hunter, who was her boyfriend. Witnesses heard a gunshot in the parking lot of the apartment and Ayanna Smith was never seen again, Marshall said.

One associate of Hunter’s—Alec Musso—testified at Hunter’s trial that Hunter came to Musso’s house on the date of Smith’s disappearance with what appeared to be the lifeless body of a woman in his car. Frank Miller, another associate of Hunter’s, testified that Hunter came to his house on the day of Smith’s disappearance and asked Miller to dispose of a handgun.

DNA evidence was also presented to the jury, as well as testimony from other experts and witnesses related to the case.

Hunter was sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole by Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge Jeff Kelley July 25, 2018.

During the sentencing hearing, Kelley stated Hunter was uncooperative while a probation officer attempted to retrieve personal information about Hunter for a presentencing report, according to The Southeast Sun files.

Kelley also stated during the presentencing hearing that the state requested Hunter be sentenced under the Habitual Felony Offender Act. He said the state cited four previous felony convictions, including two convictions of first-degree assault, promoting prison contraband, and unlawful breaking and entering of a motor vehicle.

Marion B. Brunson Jr., who attempted to interview Hunter for the presentencing report, stated that Hunter told him he was not participating in the interview process.

Hunter's attorney's filed a request for a second attempt for a presentencing interview, but the request was denied.

The Attorney General's Criminal Appeals Division handled the case during the appeals process, arguing for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to affirm the conviction.

At the time of Hunter's arrest, Twelfth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Anderson said a person could be charged with murder even with the absence of a body "if a jury can reasonably infer, based on the evidence, actual or circumstantial, that it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the missing person is in fact dead."

The Court of Criminal Appeals stated that that the extensive circumstantial evidence presented at trial “was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict that Hunter murdered Smith . . . “   

Marshall commended Assistant Attorney General Stephen Dodd for his successful work on this case.

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