Michael Wayne Eggers executed for murder of Bennie Francis Murray

Michael Wayne Eggers (left) was executed Thursday for the 2001 murder of Bennie Francis Murray, of Talladega.

File photos

TALLADEGA -- An execution date of March 15 has been set for Michael Wayne Eggers, the man convicted of murdering a 67-year-old Talladega woman in 2001.

A Walker County jury in August 2002 convicted Eggers of the murder of Bennie Francis Murray during the course of a kidnapping and a robbery. During the sentencing phase of the trial, Eggers asked the jurors to recommend death over life without the possibility of parole; they did, by a vote of 11-1. Circuit Judge Jim Brotherton accepted the recommendation and sentenced Eggers to death.

Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty is an advocacy group that includes most of the inmates on Alabama’s death row as board members. In a statement issued Wednesday, spokeswoman Esther Brown (not an inmate) said, “Eggers is what one calls ‘a volunteer’ and asked for the state to set him a date. The state was only too happy to comply and will thus be party to suicide. And here, we thought that assisted suicide was not legal in Alabama. As we are a death row inmate organization, we feel that we need to honor an inmate’s wishes, (but) at the same time, we can object that the state acts against its own laws.”

In spite of asking for the death penalty, Eggers’ appeals have continued in the 15 years since his conviction. According to al.com, however, he submitted a hand-written motion to the Alabama Supreme Court in early 2016 asking that his execution be expedited.

“Eggers now moves this court to expedite Eggers’ execution, sentence of death and the effective administration of justice, for the family members of one Bennie Francis Murray and citizens of the state of Alabama. Eggers does not challenge the method of execution employed or the drugs used for said execution by the state of Alabama … Justice should be swift, not a façade,” Eggers wrote.

He also argued that inmates should not be punished with 20 to 30 years in prison “punctuated with an execution. One could argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment … (And) family members should not be exposed to the procedural roller coaster, allowing for closure while ensuring due process and equal protection under the state and federal constitution.”

The crime

Francis Murray and her husband, Frank, operated a concession stand that followed the carnival circuit around the Southeast. According to evidence presented at his trial, Eggers worked for the Murrays until September 2000, when he met a woman in Jasper and decided to stay with her after the Murrays returned to Talladega. He called the Murrays around Christmas, saying that he was looking for work and a place to stay.

Francis Murray told him that they wouldn’t have any work for him until the carnival season began again in the spring, but Eggers and his teenaged son nonetheless turned up a few days later. The Murrays put them up at McCaig’s Motel, and Francis Murray tried to find him a job, but with no success.

On Dec. 30, 2000, Eggers asked Murray to take him and his son back to Jasper, which she agreed to do. After dropping off Eggers’ son, he asked Murray to take him to Nauvoo, about 16 mile north of Jasper, to pull his truck out of a ditch.

As they drove further into the remote area near the Winston County line, Murray said she was no longer comfortable and wanted to turn around. He accused her of “joining everybody else on the f---k Mike bandwagon,” and she backhanded him, according to Eggers’ own testimony.

He then said he lost his temper and proceeded to beat her with his fists and against the dashboard of her truck until she lost consciousness.

He eventually took control of the truck, threw the victim out and then kicked and choked her repeatedly. He eventually moved her to a location further away from the road, put a tree limb over her neck and stood on it to make sure that she was dead. During his testimony at trial, Eggers said that he did not want her to suffer.

He then drove back into town, washed the truck, picked up a bottle of whiskey and picked up his son. He also took cash and an ATM card from Murray’s purse.

The next day, Eggers and his son drove to Campbellsville, Kentucky, to stay with friends. Murray’s ATM card was used there New Year’s Eve.

Eggers and a friend then drove to a casino in Indiana on New Year’s Day, taking more money from Murray’s account. On the way back, they were stopped by police in Bardsville, Kentucky, and Eggers and his friend were arrested on a charge possession of marijuana; the friend was driving a stolen truck, but not Murray’s.

Eggers posted bond the next day and returned to Campbellsville, leaving there Jan. 4, without his son. He abandoned Murray’s truck near Bowling Green, Kentucky, and hitch-hiked to Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando. At this point, federal warrants charging interstate flight to avoid prosecution had been issued, and the FBI got involved in the manhunt.

Using calls made from a pay phone in Kissimmee to Eggers’ father and other people connected with him, state and federal officials found Eggers living in a tent city and placed him under arrest. Once in custody, he told investigators where to find the truck and, once back in Alabama, led investigators from the Talladega Police Department and Walker County Sheriff’s Office to Murray’s body.

During his trial, Eggers refused to allow his son to testify for the defense and, although he had previously entered a plea of not guilty by reason of serious mental disease or defect, also did not allow any expert testimony regarding his mental state.

Frank Murray, the victim’s husband, died a few years after Eggers was convicted.