Shanklin capital murder trial continues
by James Phillips
Oct 21, 2011 | 3115 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The capital murder trial of a Parrish man accused in the 2009 shooting death of Cordova resident Michael Crumpton continued Thursday with the defendant's former girlfriend called to the witness stand.

Amber Piper, who lived in Marshall County in October 2009, testified that she was dating Clayton Antwain Shanklin at that time.

Shanklin is accused of shooting Crumpton four times and could face the death penalty if convicted. Shanklin is also facing attempted murder charges for shooting Michael Crumpton's wife, Ashley, in the leg during an incident that happened at the Crumptons' Cordova apartment in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 2009.

Piper said she received a text around 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2009, from Shanklin, asking her to come pick him up. She said it wasn't unusual for Shanklin to ask her to drive to Walker County to pick him up, but it was unusual to hear from him that early in the morning.

One of the texts she received from Shanklin that morning informed her that he had shot somebody, Piper said.

"He said he was kidding, and I didn't really think he could do something like that," Piper said.

After coming to get Shanklin, Piper said the couple and her toddler drove to Gadsden to a home owned by her grandparents. Piper said her mother was there working on some home improvement projects. She said Shanklin acted nervous the entire trip to Gadsden, but wouldn't tell her what was bothering him. Once they were alone in the backyard of her grandparents' home, Piper said Shanklin told her about an incident that had happened earlier that morning.

According to Piper, Shanklin said Tracy Lynn Ward, who was sentenced to 20 years for felony murder with five years to serve in exchange for her cooperation in the ongoing trial as well as the trial against co-defendant Kevin Shanklin expected to be held in February, went to the Crumpton apartment on Oct. 11 to purchase marijuana.

"He said she hung out for a while and unlocked the back door before she left," Piper said.

As her testimony continued, Piper said she was told by Shanklin that he, Kevin Shanklin and Ward returned to the home that night to rob the Crumptons of money and marijuana.

"He told me that things went bad and he shot the man," she said. "He didn't say how many times."

Piper said they left her grandparents' home and drove to her mother's home in Albertville. She said they stayed with her mother for two days before leaving to go to the Boaz Inn.

"We were there for about two hours before the cops busted in," she said.

Local police arrested Shanklin at the motel on Oct. 15, 2009 and brought him back to Walker County.

Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair asked Piper if she was scared of Shanklin.

"I was scared," she said. "He told me if I told anyone he would kill me and my child."

Nath Camp, an attorney for Shanklin, asked Piper during cross examination why she left her 3-year-old child with Shanklin if she was scared for their safety.

"I left my daughter alone with Shanklin at the motel as a way to show him I wasn't going to call the law," she said.

Camp also brought up a letter Piper wrote to Shanklin only two weeks after his arrest. He asked Piper to read the first line of the letter.

"A, I love you, and I miss you so much," was what Piper read to jurors.

Camp also said Piper signed the letter as Amber Shanklin.

Two of Piper's cousins, Isaiah Howse and Tyrone Dickerson, were also called to the stand. Both testified they were asked by Shanklin to "hit a lick" in Cordova with him.

The cousins, as well as two current Alabama Department of Corrections inmates, were asked what the phrase "hit a lick" meant.

Dickerson said, "to go get some money," while Howse said it meant to rob someone.

Josh Moreland, an inmate currently at a Decatur work release facility who was also an inmate at the Walker County Jail for a two-year period, said the phrase meant, "a robbery where you can make a good bit of cash."

Moreland said he was a trustee at the Walker County Jail and talked to Shanklin on several occasions.

"After several times of us talking and getting to know each other, he told me about the robbery," Moreland said. "He said they went there to rob them of some high grade weed and cash. He said they were caught off guard because the lady tried to attack Kevin so he shot her in the leg. He said that he unloaded on the guy and hit him in the chest a couple of times."

Moreland added that Shanklin told him he thought about killing his cousin and co-defendant Kevin Shanklin.

"He said he wished he would have killed Kevin," Moreland said. "He said he thought about it and changed his mind."

Kenneth Traywick, an inmate at the Bibb County Correctional Facility, was a cell mate with Shanklin at the Walker County Jail. Traywick testified that Shanklin also told him about the shooting.

Karen Nicholson, a former caretaker at Warrior River Apartments who lived in the apartment next to the Crumptons, also testified Thursday. She said she was awoke when the incident happened on Oct. 12.

"I don't know if it was the gunshots or the struggle going on in the apartment," she said. "I woke up and then I started hearing Ashley Crumpton screaming my name."

Nicholson said she found Ashley Crumpton at her door with what looked liked a gunshot wound to the leg. She said two other neighbors were at the front door of the Crumptons' apartment trying to resuscitate Michael Crumpton.

Nicholson said she woke up a week earlier when it sounded like someone was trying to kick open the door of the Crumptons' apartment. She said when she opened her door she saw two people had fled and other tenants told her they saw the two men leave in a gold car. Howse had testified earlier in the day about seeing Shanklin talking to a "white guy with tattoos" who drove a gold Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Laronda Brown, another former girlfriend of Shanklin's, took the stand Thursday afternoon and testified that she stayed in contact with Shanklin after they broke up in 2007. She said he sent her a text either Oct. 10 or 11 to ask if she knew where he could get a pistol.

"He said he had a lick he had to hit," she said. "Where I come from, that means you have a robbery you are going to do."

Brown said days later that Shanklin called and asked if she had heard anything about him.

"He said he hit a lick and that was all," she said.

Tim Thomas, an investigator with the Walker County Sheriff's Office, finished Thursday's testimony by showing jurors several pieces of evidence collected at the Cordova apartment. Items showed to jurors included a stained bed sheet, stained pillow cases, a fist-sized rock and two handguns. Thomas was also asked about photographs he took at the scene, including photos of Crumpton's body.