Alabama/The Mobile News Attempted-murder trial begins

Boyington brothers accused of attacking victim with baseball bat, tree limb

Register Staff Reporter


BAY MINETTE - A Baldwin County jury must decide starting today whether the injuries Lavoice "Jody" Estain Jr. suffered last summer resulted from attempted murder or merely a fight among youths.

Estain was taken to the hospital in the early-morning hours of Aug. 1, 1999, bloody and bruised with his eyes swollen shut, according to police reports and testimony Tuesday in Baldwin County Circuit Court.

Donald Lynn Boyington Jr., 22, and Craig Christopher Boyington, 17, stand accused of attempted murder. The trial is expected to wrap up today.

"The case we are presenting is about a beating. I want you to notice I'm not using the word 'fight,'" Assistant District Attorney Carmen Bosch said Tuesday in her opening argument.

Bosch said "fight" is not an accurate description of what went down because Estain was lured to a wooded area next to a dirt road outside of Bay Minette and jumped by six attackers.

"And then they left him there in that hot, sticky August night alone to suffer the consequences of whatever injuries they might have done," she said.

Craig Boyington is charged with attacking Estain with a baseball bat. His brother, Donald, is accused of whacking him with a large tree limb.

But the brothers' defense attorneys characterized the incident as a fight that began between Craig Boyington and a much-older, much-bigger Estain. Defense lawyer Peter Madden said in his opening statement that Estain had pulled Craig Boyington out of his car the night before and threw him in a ditch - and then came to Boyington's house to threaten him.

Madden said his client chose to fight back the next day.

"What happened was a very juvenile thing," he said. "It was stupid. It was wrong. But it wasn't attempted murder or first-degree assault."

Dom Soto, who is representing Donald Boyington, said in his opening statement that his client had no involvement in the dispute until the morning of Aug. 1 when he showed up at the spot while en route to a party.

"He comes in the last 15 minutes. The next thing he knows, he's in a fight and has to defend himself," Soto said.

Six people initially were charged with attempted murder. Three of them - Clayton Edison White, Phillip Shayne Dickman and Micheal Lee Whatley - have pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and received one-year suspended sentences.

The fourth, David Kyle Wasdin, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to start a fight. He also received a one-year suspended sentence.

Wasdin testified Tuesday that Craig Boyington was waving a baseball bat at Estain, but he said he did not see the fight because he said he turned to go back to his truck.

Bosch said prosecutors allowed the defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges because none of them used weapons, as did the Boyingtons.

Estain, who has served in the Coast Guard the last nine months, testified Tuesday that on July 30, 1999, while on the way to a friend's house after a party, the car in front of the one he was riding in stopped suddenly on Alabama 225.

Estain said he could see some sort of struggle between Craig Boyington and another teen-ager, Stephanie Lores.

"I knew something was wrong automatically," Estain said. "I ran over there just to stop it."

Estain testified he pulled Craig and Lores out and separated them, but he said he did not strike Craig or throw him in a ditch.

Estain acknowledged that he later went to Craig Boyington's house, but he said it was only to see that Lores would not get hurt, and he testified that he never got out of the car.

Estain testified that Craig Boyington told him over the phone: "I'll get you." Estain's cousin, Bobby Crawford, testified that Donald Boyington called him looking for Estain and instructed him to tell his cousin that he and his brother would kill him.

The next night, Dickman invited him to another party, Estain testified. But when the car stopped on Tall Pine Road, he said, the Boyingtons and several others attacked him.

Estain said he blacked out during the attack. He was taken to the North Baldwin Hospital later that day.

Estain's aunt, Jean Crawford, testified that she cared for her nephew for about two weeks after the confrontation while his severe wounds healed.

"We bathed him for a week. He did not eat for a week. He couldn't," said Crawford, who is an emergency room nurse at the hospital.

Under cross-examination, Estain acknowledged that he was released from the hospital about four hours after he got there and that he has not seen any specialists for continuing medical problems.

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