Jury seated in Jody Byrd murder trial

Jury seated in Jody Byrd murder trial

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Jody Byrd was charged in 2011 with the 1999 murder of his wife Desta Dodson Byrd. Source: WBRC file photo Jody Byrd was charged in 2011 with the 1999 murder of his wife Desta Dodson Byrd. Source: WBRC file photo
Desta Dodson-Byrd in 1988, little more than a decade before her murder. Photo from Justice For Desta's Facebook page. Desta Dodson-Byrd in 1988, little more than a decade before her murder. Photo from Justice For Desta's Facebook page.
The group Justice for Desta posted these billboards in 2011 to draw public attention to the cold case of their friend's murder. Source: WBRC The group Justice for Desta posted these billboards in 2011 to draw public attention to the cold case of their friend's murder. Source: WBRC
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

A murder trial began Monday for a West Alabama man charged with killing his wife in 1999. Bibb County prosecutors accuse Jody Byrd of gunning down his wife in the couple's driveway.

The murder of Desta Dodson-Byrd remained an mystery until 2011, when authorities arrested Jody Byrd in connection with the crime. Authorities accuse him of shooting his wife to death with a shotgun outside their home.

Desta's friends and family formed a group called "Justice for Desta" in order to seek justice for her murder, which remained unsolved for over a decade.

They approached law enforcement to keep investigating the case. ABI investigators, Bibb County Sheriff's deputies and prosecutors reviewed the case.

In 2011, investigators presented evidence to a grand jury. The indictment against Jody Byrd accuses him of killing Desta Dodson Byrd for money from an insurance policy.

Jody Byrd has pleaded not guilty to his wife's murder. Jury selection began at 9 a.m. Monday morning at the Bibb County Courthouse. A jury of 10 women and four men was seated a little after 1 p.m.

In court today, prosecutors claimed Jody shot his wife in the head near an embankment, then moved her body near their house.

The state says Jody claims he came home and found his wife lying near the driveway with a gunshot wound to her head.

Prosecutors say Jody called 911, telling them, "My wife is dead in the yard."

According to the state, when EMT's arrived 25 minutes after the 911 call, they found Desta on a pillow near the couple's home. The prosecution said EMT workers reported Desta's body was still warm when they arrived. The prosecution believes Jody moved his wife's body after killing her.

The defense team for Jody Byrd alleges that Desta committed suicide. They said today in court that Jody tried to give Desta CPR when he arrived home from work and found her lying in the yard. The defense claims that Desta had an eating disorder and her worry over her image may have led her to commit suicide.

Defense lawyers say the evidence will prove Desta died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head.

The defense maintains that EMTs said Desta's body was cold when they arrived, and Jody reported that her lips were purple.

The defense says that Jody and Desta Byrd loved each other and there were never any hints of trouble. They said law enforcement didn't do their jobs properly, and police pointed to Jody as a suspect from day one because he was the husband.

A witness for the prosecution said they heard the gun shot, and that it was from a .22 rifle, the same kind of gun that was found at the couple's house.

Prosecutors played the 911 call in the case today in court. In the call, Jody said he had just come home from work and found his wife lying in the yard with blood all over her head. Jody then told dispatchers he picked his wife up and moved her to the side of the house. At the end of the call, Jody told the dispatcher to "take care."

The 911 dispatcher also took the stand in court. She said Jody stayed calm throughout a long portion of the call, but could be heard crying a few times during their conversation. She said she heard Jody telling their dog, "Dakota, what happened to Mama?" as he was crying.

Court recessed around 2:30 p.m. The trial is expected to last possibly into next week. There could be as many 100 witnesses in the case.

If convicted, Jody Byrd could face life imprisonment.

We will have the latest details on the case on FOX6 News starting at 5 p.m.

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