|Ocie Lee Lynch|
The murder investigation in the death of a prominent Talladega attorney already is emitting a foul odor--and a suspect barely has been in custody for 48 hours.
Ocie Lee Lynch, a 30-year-old Birmingham man, was arrested late Tuesday night in the murder of Robert Blake Lazenby, a partner in perhaps the most prestigious law firm in Talladega County. Lazenby died last July from multiple gunshot wounds, and his body was found in the dining room of his Sylacauga home.
What smells funny about the murder investigation at this point? Let's consider two issues raised by a report in The Talladega Daily Home:
Lynch had an initial court appearance Wednesday morning before Talladega County District Judge Jeb Fannin, who informed him he had been charged with capital murder during the commission of a burglary in the first degree.
When the defendant asked why he was being charged with both crimes, Fannin explained that the burglary in the first degree was the aggravating circumstance that made the murder a capital case.
First, we learn that Lynch appeared before District Judge Jeb Fannin. That's the same Judge Fannin who was overseeing Blake Lazenby's divorce case at the time of the shooting. That's also the same Judge Fannin who denied multiple requests from lawyers for Geanne Lazenby to recuse himself from the divorce case, on the grounds that her husband frequently appeared before Talladega County judges, and their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
We also learn that Lynch is being charged with capital murder because the killing allegedly took place during the commission of a burglary.
We are supposed to believe that a Birmingham man drove 40-something miles to Sylacauga and just happened to choose for burglary the home of a lawyer who was involved in an increasingly rancorous divorce case? We are supposed to believe that this was about a burglary gone awry and had nothing to do with the divorce case?
Early news reports placed the time of death between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on July 27. That means any burglary would have been taking place in broad daylight. Burglars certainly have been known to strike during the day . . . but early in the evening, right after normal business hours, when the occupant is likely to come home at any moment?
I'm having a hard time buying that one. As we have reported previously, court documents show that Ms. Lazenby and her lawyers were alarmed that Judge Fannin refused to recuse himself--and they had reason to be concerned; under the law, recusal should have been granted. Documents also show that Blake Lazenby and his lawyers apparently were trying to strong arm Ms. Lazenby into a settlement agreement that she had not approved. We also know that Blake Lazenby's lawyers were trying to subpoena documents that appeared to have little, if any, relevance to the divorce case. They were going after Ms. Lazenby's medical records from at least two different sources, and they were seeking information about a criminal complaint Ms. Lazenby apparently had filed against a man named Earnest Files, of Coosa County.
Who is Earnest Files and why did his name come up in Lazenby v. Lazenby? The answer remains unclear, but here is what we reported earlier:
We checked the Web site for the Coosa County Sheriff's Office and found this item dated April 1, 2011:
Earnest James Files Jr. of Kellyton, AL was arrested on charges of Harassing Communication and Criminal Trespassing. He was processed and released on bond to await trial.
Did Ms. Lazenby file a criminal complaint for harassing communication and trespassing against Earnest James Files Jr.? If so, why did Blake Lazenby's lawyers want that information and why was it relevant in a divorce case?
Does Ocie Lee Lynch have any connections to Earnest James Files Jr.? Is that what led law-enforcement officials to the man who now is in custody?
More information likely will be forthcoming in the next few days. Law-enforcement officials have indicated that more arrests are expected. Officials apparently believe Ocie Lee Lynch engaged in a conspiracy, that he did not act alone. But we doubt it was a conspiracy to commit burglary. Any conspiracy, we suspect, was to commit murder, and it probably was driven by actions related to the Lazenby v. Lazenby divorce case.