No courthouse could mean change of venue for slaying suspects

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 09:10 PM.

CHIPLEY — A change of venue is expected for the trials of two men indicted in the April 19 slaying of retired game warden James William Shores.

Zachary Taylor Wood, 23, and Dillon Scott Rafsky, 22, both of Geneva, Ala., will be tried separately on charges of premeditated murder, burglary while armed and robbery with a firearm.

Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson stated Washington County simply doesn’t have the facilities to hold a capital murder trial. The courthouse has been closed for months due to a mold problem.

“We don’t have the infrastructure,” said Judge Patterson when the suspects appeared in pre-trial Wednesday. “Washington County doesn’t have the courthouse to accommodate this kind of trial. The defendants have the right to be tried in the county in which the offense occurred, but I’ve done the research and could find no such instance of these serious charges where this has come up and there wasn’t a courthouse. We’re on new ground.”

Both Bay and Holmes counties were discussed as possible venues for the trials, with Holmes said to be the most likely candidate.

“Logistically, we need a case of this magnitude to be tried in (Holmes County),” said Judge Patterson.

The pair will be back for motion day Oct. 16. Woods will face trial in January, and Rafsky’s trial is set for February.

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