13 INVESTIGATES: Delayed Justice for Desta - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

13 INVESTIGATES: Delayed Justice for Desta

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BRIERFIELD, AL -  Nicole Barton's memories of Desta Byrd are vivid and clear. So when she learned her childhood best friend was shot to death in her Bibb County driveway in February of 19-99, Barton remembers every detail.

Like where she was, what she was doing and her encounter with Byrd's husband Jody at church not long after her friend's death.

“I just felt the need to approach him.  And when I touched his hand, the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  And it was lightning from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.  And I knew.  I knew,” Barton stated.

However, as the years passed and no one was charged in Byrd's death, Barton and some of Byrd's other friends grew frustrated.

So to bring awareness to the case they formed Justice for Desta.

It included a handful of billboards in the area featuring Byrd's picture and a call for action.

“People had stopped talking about her.  And it was not something that i could forget.  I couldn't let it go,” Barton recalled.

Then on May 27, 2011, 12 years, three months and two days after Desta Byrd was gunned down in her driveway, her husband Jody Byrd was charged with her murder.

Even though he would be prosecuted here in Bibb County, the team who would prosecute him was located eighty miles away.

Newly elected Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey was assigned the case as a special prosecutor.

“They had told me, several people had been like, this is not a slam dunk case.  And everybody I talked to, everybody on the case I talked to said we all know he did it; you just have to prove it,” Casey remembered.

So she and Assistant District Attorney Scott Gilliland went to work.

They sifted through piles of photos and other evidence in the case.

Casey thought the motive was clear.

“I believe that Desta was in the process of leaving, or thinking about leaving Jody.  That's my personal belief based off the evidence,” Casey argued.

Jody Byrd's attorney Joe Basgier disagrees.

They argued to the jury that Desta Byrd committed suicide.

“There were no affairs.  There were no financial troubles.  There's no reason that Jody would have done this,” Basgier pointed out.

Then on November 1 of this year, after five days of testimony, a Bibb County jury found 46 year old Jody Byrd guilty of murder.  

Nicole Barton believes their vigilance had finally paid off.

“He didn't bank on that.  He absolutely did not bank on the fact her friends were never going to let her go,” Barton concluded.

William Jody Byrd is scheduled to be sentenced next Wednesday at the Bibb County Courthouse.

Prosecutors are asking for 99 years in prison and $278,627 in restitution.

Basgier said do plan to request a new trial, ultimately appeal the verdict, if necessary.
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