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Alabama veteran charged with capital murder in death of 11-year-old boy during turkey hunt

The Alabama man who shot dead an 11-year-old boy and injured his father while turkey hunting in May is now charged with capital murder.

Joshua Stewart Burks, 36, was initially charged with reckless manslaughter by the the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office for the death of fifth grader Troy Ellis on May 1.

On December 10 a Jefferson County grand jury upgraded the charges against Burks, a middle school teacher and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, to capital murder of a person under the age of 14.

He was booked back into Jefferson County Jail Friday afternoon and released the same evening after posting $60,000 bond. He was previously out on $15,000 bond, according to AL.com.

‘We are disappointed the grand jury saw the case differently than the magistrate and the district attorney’s office that originally charged the case as manslaughter,’ Burks’ lawyer Tommy Spina said. 

A grand jury upgraded charges against Alabama man Joshua Stewart Burks, 36, (above in Friday booking photo) in the May shooting death of 11-year-old Troy Ellis to capital murder of a person under the age of 14

On May 1 Burks went on a turkey hunt for wounded veterans and fatally shot fifth grader Troy Ellis, 11, (above) and injured his father Obed Ellis. Burks was initially charged with reckless manslaughter before it was upgraded

On May 1 Burks went on a turkey hunt for wounded veterans and fatally shot fifth grader Troy Ellis, 11, (above) and injured his father Obed Ellis. Burks was initially charged with reckless manslaughter before it was upgraded

Troy with his father Obed before heading out on a hunt

Troy with his father Obed before heading out on a hunt 

‘I am hopeful that the evidence will ultimately establish that what occurred that day was not an intentional act. We pray each day for the family of the deceased,’ he added.

Burks, Troy Ellis and his father Obed Ellis were part of the same turkey hunting party, which was organized by a group that sponsor hunts for wounded veterans.

Burks is an amputee and it was his first time ever going hunting. 

He ended up shooting Troy around 9.30am off Cedar Mountain Road and injured his football coach father. Troy was brought down from the mountain and pronounced dead at the scene.

The Ellis family filed a wrongful death suit against Burke and Kyle Eugene Henley, who acts as a guide for the nonprofit hunting organization called America’s Heroes Enjoying Recreation Outdoors, which was also named in the suit.

The suit claims Burks had taken numerous pain pills the night before and the morning of the hunt and was ‘likely not capable of safely handling a firearm and certainly was not capable of making appropriate decisions with regard to handling a weapon.’

The case was settled in October. 

The youngster's father, Obed Ellis, was also treated at the scene for a minor injury as a result of the gunfire

The youngster was with his father, Obed Ellis, at the time of the killing

The youngster was with his father, Obed Ellis, at the time of the killing. Obed was also treated at the scene for a minor injury as a result of the gunfire. Right, Troy, pictured with a turkey

Burks is a Marine Corps veteran and middle school teacher

His lawyer says he intends to enter a not guilty plea

Burks is a Marine Corps veteran and middle school teacher. His lawyer says he intends to enter a not guilty plea

Spina, Burks’ lawyer in the criminal case, told Oxygen Tuesday that bloodwork provided to the district attorney’s office does not show his client had taken pills ahead of the hunt in May and he’s unsure if that evidence was presented to the grand jury.

Spina also said his offer for Burks to testify to the grand jury was rejected.

‘The burden of proof is on the state to prove that he acted intentionally. Which is simply not the case,’ he said.

Spina says Burks intends to enter a plea of not guilty.

Burks, an amputee, is U.S. Marine Corps veteran and was a teacher in Mobile as of 2012. He was listed as a baseball coach at Davidson High School in Mobile. 

Dad, Obed Ellis, is pictured with his son, Troy, right, and his wife and two other children

Dad, Obed Ellis, is pictured with his son, Troy, right, and his wife and two other children

A view of the officials on the scene of the shooting on May 1

A view of the officials on the scene of the shooting on May 1

If convicted he’ll be eligible for the death penalty. The criminal charge makes Burks eligible for jail time. The wrongful death suit was a civil lawsuit that doesn’t directly lead to incarceration. 

‘The events that occurred that day were devastating on many levels and our sympathies are with the family of the young man that lost his life in what we believe was a tragic hunting accident,’ Spina said. 




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