Argument leads to death

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 20, 2005

An argument Sunday morning in the Sumter County Morningstar Community proved to have deadly consequences, which left one man dead, and a community in shock. The disagreement eventually led to gunshots and when the smoke cleared Jessie James Altman, 33, of York was dead.

Sumter County deputies received a call at about 10:45 a.m. on Jan. 16 of a person shot on Collins Drive. When they arrived on the scene they found Altman shot twice in the neck and chest dead on the scene in the front yard of a residence.

An investigation soon led to the arrest of Gary Collins, 26, of Collins Drive. Collins was taken into investigative custody at the scene of the murder and placed in Sumter County Jail. Collins was formally charged with murder on Tuesday. Collins bond has been set at $100,000.

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Sumter County Sheriff Johnny L. Hatter said the case seems pretty clear in the early stages of the investigation.

“We believe at this point we have a pretty clear idea of what happened,” Hatter said. “We’re making sure now that we wrap up every detail and conduct a thorough investigation.”

The department does not know what the two were arguing about, but they know there was a heated disagreement. Words were apparently not enough to solve the problem for Collins who turned to gunshots. It was not long before Collins was taken into custody.

Hatter said a cooperative investigation helped the department and all others involved move quickly to make an arrest. The Alabama Bureau of Investigations arrived on the scene soon after the shooting while deputies secured the area and began interviewing potential witnesses. The interviews eventually led to the arrest and charging of Collins.

In a further investigation on the property police also recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon. An assault rifle was found in the woods near the scene of the crime. The weapon had apparently been tossed in the woods only a few yards from the scene. Altman’s car, which had several bullet holes in it was also seized as evidence and has been impounded.

Altman’s body has been sent to the Alabama Crime Lab for an autopsy and the weapon has also been sent for forensic testing. The results have not yet been returned.

Hatter said the investigation would continue and encouraged any one with information on the incident to please contact the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department. The number is 205-652-7984. Any information is appreciated and all calls will be kept strictly confidential.