BETHALTO — A couple on the run after killing an Alabama woman in a violent, multistate crime spree “executed” three acquaintances in a Bethalto home and stole their car to try to continue evading authorities, police here say.
Brady Kane Witcher, 41, and Brittany Nicole McMillan, 28, were each charged Saturday in Madison County with nine counts of murder in the first degree in the deaths of Shari Yates, 59, her son Andrew Brooks, 30, and another man, John McMillian, 32. All three were found dead late Thursday inside Yates’ home in the 300 block of Mill Street in Bethalto.
Earlier that day, Witcher “pulled the trigger” and “executed” Yates, Brooks and McMillian, said Lt. Brian Koberna of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis. According to charges, Witcher used a semi-automatic handgun and shot each victim in the head.
“This was a brutal and heinous crime,” Koberna said during a news conference Saturday in Bethalto announcing the charges against McMillan and Witcher. “They’re some of the most evil individuals I’ve seen in my entire career.”
McMillan cooperated with Witcher in the murders, said Crystal Uhe, top assistant prosecutor with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The couple knew the victims but were not related to them, Uhe said. She declined to release more details.
McMillan previously lived in Bethalto. She and Witcher went to Yates’ home to steal her car and other property, Uhe said.
“This was not a random act,” Uhe said.
Prosecutors also charged Witcher and McMillan with one count each of armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking. Prosecutors used an Illinois law that allows additional murder charges against suspects in killings committed in the process of other felony crimes.
Police say Witcher and McMillan arrived in Bethalto following a weeklong crime spree that included the kidnapping and Dec. 13 killing of Kellie Ann Hughes, 31, whose body was found dumped in woods near Birmingham, Alabama, as well as armed robberies, kidnappings and car thefts in Birmingham and Clarksville, Tennessee.
The couple were arrested Thursday on warrants in connection with Hughes’ death. The FBI alerted Illinois authorities to the couple’s location at a Days Inn hotel in Hazelwood, where they were found in possession of Yates’ vehicle, police said.
Hazelwood police asked Bethalto police to check Yates’ home, and police found the three bodies inside.
The couples’ crimes, Uhe said, “can only be described as a complete reign of terror.” She plans to seek the maximum penalty of life in prison.
Witcher also was charged Saturday with unlawful possession of weapons by a felon.
He and McMillan were in custody in St. Louis County on Saturday awaiting extradition to Madison County.
Investigators with Hazelwood police, Bethalto police, the FBI and other area authorities worked around the clock since the couple was arrested late Thursday, Bethalto police Chief Mike Dixon said.
“This was the most tragic and despicable act of violence I’ve ever seen,” Dixon said.