Originally created 02/28/05

Start of trial brings back bad memories of slayings



BARNWELL, S.C. - The start of a death-penalty trial this week for a man accused of killing teen-agers Joshua Brewer and Albert "A.J." Still Jr. is stoking the embers of a 5-year-old crime that many in Barnwell had worked hard to forget.

Alfred Tyrone Walker is charged with, among other things, two counts of murder and second-degree burglary.

He was 18 when police say he walked into a Sonic Drive-In with Wallace R. Priester, stole money from the fast-food restaurant and shot Joshua, who was 17, and Mr. Still, who was 18.

A third victim, Shaun Edwards, who was 18 when the shooting occurred in October 2000, was shot but survived. Mr. Walker also faces charges in that shooting.

Mr. Priester, who was 15 at the time, was convicted of the crimes in 2001 and is serving back-to-back life sentences, plus 75 years.

Jury selection for Mr. Walker's trial starts today in Edgefield County, a site chosen in part because attorneys want impartial jurors and the incident is widely known in Barnwell.

Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner will preside over the case, which will be moved back to Barnwell after jury selection.

He has placed a gag order on family members of the victims, limiting them from speaking to the media.

For others, the incident is a permanent part of the town's dialogue. Several residents said the killings opened their eyes to a sort of extreme violence they had never before witnessed.

Trever Carter was a 13-year-old freshman at Barnwell High School when the shooting occurred.

"People looked at Barnwell differently after that night," he said. "People started realizing that Barnwell wasn't the best place in the world."

The crime changed the way Nelson and Mary Nichols live their lives.

"We don't go nowhere at night to eat supper, nowhere in Barnwell or Augusta," Mr. Nichols said. "It's the wrong kind of people out."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.