Russell trial continues; jurors see alleged confession video
by Rachael Brown
rbrown@annistonstar.com
Sep 11, 2013 | 5007 views |  0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joshua Russell enters the courtroom at Lee County Justice Center in Opelika, Ala., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 to stand trial for the alleged capital murder of Anniston police officer Justin Sollohub in 2011. Prosecutors say Russell, 26, shot Sollohub in the head during a foot chase on Aug. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Opelika-Auburn News, Albert Cesare, Pool)
Joshua Russell enters the courtroom at Lee County Justice Center in Opelika, Ala., on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 to stand trial for the alleged capital murder of Anniston police officer Justin Sollohub in 2011. Prosecutors say Russell, 26, shot Sollohub in the head during a foot chase on Aug. 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Opelika-Auburn News, Albert Cesare, Pool)
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OPELIKA — Jurors today glimpsed Joshua Russell’s mindset while watching a police interview videotaped hours after he allegedly killed Justin Sollohub in 2011 on the second day of testimony in his capital murder trial.

Russell is charged in connection with the death of Sollohub, an Anniston police officer, who died of a gunshot wound after chasing a suspect on foot in August 2011. Russell was arrested after an hours-long manhunt in the neighborhood where Sollohub was found shot.

Russell’s trial is being held in Lee County so that the case could be presented to jurors who had no prior knowledge of the case.

In the opening moments of the videotape footage, Russell is seen seated in a chair, his hands cuffed behind him. He speaks to an officer in the room, but the formal police interview has not yet begun.

Russell tells the officer that Sollohub reached toward him and the gun went off.

The 26-year-old man trails off and mumbles that he won’t have to worry about a roof over his head and that he would get three meals a day.

Shortly after, Anniston police Sgt. Chris Sparks enters the room and informs Russell of his rights.

Sparks tells Russell it’s best for him to be up-front about what happened.

“I know you’ve had a bad day. I’ve had a bad day too. We’re going to talk about it,” Sparks says on the tape.

During the video, Russell says he and 27-year-old Sollohub both turned a corner and ran into each other. The gun, Russell says, was intended to scare the officer.

Prosecutors and witnesses Tuesday testified to Sollohub’s pursuit of Russell in a foot chase near 19th Street and Moore Avenue around 11 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2011. Russell tells police in the interview he ran from Sollohub because he thought there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Russell tells Sparks in the footage that he scared an officer away in an earlier encounter when he pulled out a cell phone. The defendant says he’d hoped pulling out a gun would cause the same reaction.

Later in the video, police tell Russell he’s been formally charged with attempted murder — Sollohub was still alive but in critical condition in a hospital at that time. Russell insists Sollohub “knew how it all went down,” and says he wasn’t even sure if the officer he shot was still in a hospital.

The gun used was a black .22 caliber Taurus-made handgun, Russell tells Sparks. He describes the gun as stolen, telling the officer it was “hot.”

More testimony

Jurors also listened Wednesday to testimony from Dr. Emily Ward, a medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Ward testified that she performed Sollohub’s autopsy. She concluded the officer died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The bullet entered the left side of Sollohub’s head and was lodged in the right side of the back of the officer’s head. Ward showed photos of the officer’s wound and X-rays to the jurors.

Jeniffer Morris, Sollohub’s mother, remained in the courtroom while the photos of her son were shown. Morris dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, but stayed fixated on the photos projected on the screen. Breathing tubes were visible in the photos and Ward told the jurors those were used during Sollohub’s organ donation.

Ward said that based on the positioning of the wound, the officer was crouching slightly and had his head tilted toward his right shoulder when he was shot.

The doctor determined that the gun was held approximately three to four inches away from the man’s head when it was fired, based on several tiny scrapes around the wound. The tiny scrapes are called stippling abrasions, she said, and they’re caused by gunpowder particles that leave little red dots around the entrance wound.

Several law enforcement officers who collected and handled evidence during the case also testified today.

David Cash, an officer with the Calhoun-Cleburne Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, said he was present when Russell was discovered in a wooded area west of 19th Street and McCoy Avenue after an hours-long manhunt. After Russell was apprehended, Cash discovered a black handgun hidden under some brush close to the area where the defendant was hiding, according to the officer’s testimony.

Investigator Mark Osburn, with the Anniston Crime Lab, told jurors he collected several items as evidence, including a single shell casing, from the area where Sollohub was shot. The investigator also collected a blue shirt that Russell was believed to have worn during the shooting. Osburn said a test revealed the presence of blood on the shirt.

Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh addressed the court after the jury was adjourned and said the state expected to rest Thursday afternoon.

Testimony will continue at 9 o’clock Thursday morning in Lee County.

Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.

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