Orrville man convicted in murder of his uncle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

An Orrville man was found guilty Tuesday in Dallas County Circuit Court for the murder of his uncle, who was shot in the head after the victim took his keys to prevent him from driving drunk.

Jurors deliberated for about 40 minutes before returning with the verdict finding Jerry C. Wise guilty of murder in connection with the Feb. 20, 2006, shooting death of Joe L. Pettaway.

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When the verdict was announced to Judge Jack Meigs, and a packed courtroom filled with relatives, a family member utters “thank the Lord.”

Wise was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of his uncle, Pettaway, 66. The boy, now 13, testified that his father had been drinking and told him to get into the car to go for a ride.

Following a pre-sentencing investigation, Wise could be sentenced to life in prison.

The victim’s daughter, Annie Dell Calhoun, said the family was relieved.

“Joe was my father, and he (Wise) is my first cousin,” Calhoun said. “At first, it was hard for the family. But now that it’s over we can just thank the Lord.”

During proceedings Wise’s son told the court his father often drank beer, and was drinking the day he put in him his lap on a dirt road and let him steer. He testified he saw his father “take a pill, then drank some beer” as they drove. While the youth steered the car went into a ditch and they had to get help pulling the car out.

After they were back home, the boy testified Pettaway took the car keys and threw them up onto the roof of their mobile home. Wise then went inside and produced a weapon. He returned headed straight for Pettaway firing at least two shots.

Dorial Pettaway, the victim’s son, witnessed the incident. He testified during the two-day trial.

“I’m just glad it’s over with,” Pettaway said.

State prosecutors Shannon Lynch and Vernetta Perkins met with family members after the trial, sharing hugs and tears. Lynch said Wise’s defense attorney George Jones hinged their case on his client being intoxicated.

“He did that in front of his little boy,” Perkins said. “They’re going to have to adjust to life without two family members.”

Jurors heard testimony that the victim and Wise often worked together doing painting and construction jobs. Pettaway testified Wise did not like how much he was paid, and had not been working in the time leading up to the shooting.