Joshua Eugene Russell, 26, is charged with capital murder in connection with the death of Justin Sollohub, an Anniston police officer who died after being shot in the head while chasing a suspect on foot in August 2011. Russell was arrested after an hours-long manhunt in the neighborhood where 27-year-old Sollohub was found shot.
Testimony ended early today after one juror said he was not feeling well.
Calhoun County Circuit Judge Brian Howell said one of the 14 jurors is diabetic and complained this morning of fatigue. Jurors listened to an hour and a half of testimony before the juror said he could not continue.
Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh addressed the court when the jury wasn’t present and asked to be finished for the day.
McVeigh said Wednesday afternoon that the state expected to rest its case today.
John Robbins, Russell’s court-appointed attorney, agreed with McVeigh and court was adjourned before 11 a.m.
Before being dismissed, jurors listened to testimony from Russell’s sister, Cheryl Bush. Bush cried as she took the stand and told jurors she received a call from Russell on Aug. 24, 2011 around lunchtime. Her brother sounded out of breath during the brief conversation and told her he was scared and that someone was chasing him.
Bush testified that shortly after the phone call abruptly ended she found out a police officer had been shot. Later that same day, police contacted Bush and asked her to call and send a text message to her brother, she testified.
Bush said several phone calls to Russell went unanswered, but he replied to one of her text messages.
The woman said she asked Russell what was happening. Her brother replied that he was fine, but scared, she said.
Police asked Bush to convince Russell to turn himself in, she said, but he never replied to another text asking him to do so.
Terrence McCurdy told jurors he knew Russell because he dated one of the man’s cousins. McCurdy spoke of a heart-to-heart he had with the defendant about a week before the shooting.
“We were talking about things that happened in the street. Things that happened in his past ... About not making the same mistakes,” McCurdy testified.
Russell told McCurdy “I’m not going back to jail,” McCurdy said.
Jurors learned that the same type of gun used to kill Sollohub was stolen from Jesse Poore’s truck between Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, 2011. Poore testified that the .22 caliber Taurus handgun he bought for his wife’s protection held six bullets in the magazine. One round had been in the chamber when it was stolen, he said.
McVeigh asked Poore if he gave permission for Russell to possess the gun, to which Poore replied “No.”
Shandrika Dotson told jurors she knew Russell because days before the shooting the man asked her to braid his hair.
Dotson testified that Russell called her on the afternoon of Aug. 24, 2011.
Russell asked Dotson if she’d heard what happened, she told jurors. She told him on the phone that she’d heard a police officer had been shot and Russell was involved, Dotson testified.
To which Russell replied, “Sort of, kind of,” she told the court.
Dotson said she asked Russell not to call her again.
McVeigh said after court was dismissed that his office plans in advance for contingencies like Thursday’s early adjournment.
“We will move forward tomorrow and this will not affect our presentation of evidence,” he said.
Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 Friday morning in Lee County.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.