MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A Mississippi man accused of killing five people in a south Alabama home with blows from an ax and gunshots pleaded not guilty Wednesday, and the father of one victim said he hopes the case goes to trial because he wants to see what prompted the attack.
Derrick Dearman, 27, of Leakesville, Mississippi, glanced at his relatives a few times during a brief arraignment hearing before Mobile County Judge Rick Stout.
Dearman entered the not guilty pleas after Stout read multiple charges including capital murder and kidnapping. The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for Oct. 17, when authorities will have to reveal some of their evidence.
Dearman, who is jailed without bond, previously told reporters the slayings happened while he was high on methamphetamine.
Authorities allege Dearman used an ax and guns to attack three men and two women as they slept Aug. 20 at a rural house in Citronelle where his estranged girlfriend, Laneta Lester, had sought refuge after accusing Dearman of abuse. The dead included Lester's brother, who lived in the house with his wife.
The father of another victim, Robert Lee Brown, was in the courtroom.
"I'm happy he (pleaded) not guilty because I want to see all the evidence," Robert F. Brown told reporters outside the courtroom. Brown said his son's two young sons might want to know details of the killings at some point in the future.
District Attorney Ashley Rich said her office likely will seek the death penalty against Dearman. That means a trial would have to be held even if Dearman later changes his plea to guilty; a state law requires prosecutors in such cases to prove they have evidence enough for a conviction.
Dearman is charged with six counts of murder, including one count for the unborn child of a pregnant woman who was among the dead. The kidnapping charges stem from the alleged abduction of Lester and a toddler, both of whom were later released unharmed.