Left, Tiquez Timmons and Derric Scott were arrested Dec. 13 in connection to the murder of a University of South Alabama professor last month. (Courtesy MCSO)
Court testimony suggests a stolen video game console may have provided the break that led to a pair of suspects being connected to the murder of a University of South Alabama (USA) economics professor.
As Lagniappe has reported, Dr. Matthew Wiser was found shot to death in his home on Gaillard Road Nov. 21 after colleagues noted his absence and asked campus police to perform a welfare check. Police said he died from a gunshot wound, but were slow to release any details about the case at first.
After more than three weeks with no suspects named publicly, police anncoued Friday two 20-year-old men had been charged with felony murder in connection to Wiser’s death. Derric Scott and Tiquez Timmons were escorted to Mobile Metro Jail by several Mobile Police Department (MPD) officers shortly after 10 a.m., Dec. 13.
During testimony this week, though, investigators said Wiser’s Nintendo Switch, which Timmons and Scott allegedly stole from scene, was essential in tying the pair to the murder. After the device connected to Nintendo’s online network, investigators were able to trace it back to the suspects and make the arrests.
At this point it’s unclear what other information police may have connecting the men to Wiser’s murder, but Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood said he feels confident state prosecutors have shown enough to establish probable cause that Timmons and Scott were at the very least involved in the killing.
During a Dec. 16 hearing before Mobile County District Judge George Zoghby, both suspects were granted a $150,000 bond, though they will each be required to wear electronic monitoring devices if they’re released from jail ahead of their trials. As of Tuesday, both men were still in custody at Metro.
Last week, Chief Lawrence Battiste said he didn’t believe the suspects were students of Wiser’s or enrolled in classes at USA. Neither has a significant criminal history as an adult, either. Records indicate Scott hasn’t been arrested locally, though Timmons has been charged with marijuana possession before.
In all, Battiste credited the detectives with identifying a potential suspect in a case that left many in the community — and especially those living in areas near Wiser’s home — feeling uneasy.
“I’m extremely proud of the work the men and women of the MPD homicide unit have done,” Battiste said. “This was one of those cases where there was not a whole lot of immediate evidence for us to act on, but because of their experience and diligence, they were able to pick out some of the most minute of things, which really brought us to where we are today. I also feel extremely confident that the information we have will also lead to a conviction when we take this case to trial.”
Police have previously said Wiser’s home showed signs of forced entry, but so far, Timmons and Scott are only being charged with a single count of felony murder. Battiste said additional charges could be brought after discussions with Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office.
Battiste didn’t rule out the possibility of other individuals being charged in the case, either.
In Alabama, a murder committed during the commission of a robbery could be treated as a capital offense, and the charge documents for both suspects alleged they caused Wiser’s death while committing or attempting to committing “burglary in the first degree.”
The determination of how to proceed with charges will ultimately be up to local prosecutors. Speaking to Lagniappe, Blackwood said that determination of whether a capital charge — which could lead to the death penalty — is made through a process within the office that is still ongoing in this particular case.
“Sometimes we’ll charge someone with capital murder immediately because the investigation is in a state where we feel comforable doing that, but that’s not always the case,” Blackwood said. “Here we have an ongoing investiation, though we have proable cause to believe these two were involved in the murder.”
Blackwood said the charge could also vary as investigators and prosecutors determine which — if either — of the two men actually fired the fatal shots that ended Wiser’s life. He also said one of the suspects could face lesser charges if it’s determined he was only an accomplice to the robbery and murder.
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