Police: Huntsville woman’s murder came after botched drug deal

Wednesday’s hearing was the first time members of Samantha Coyner’s family saw the man charged in her murder

Posted: May 8, 2019 2:48 PM
Updated: May 8, 2019 5:40 PM

A Huntsville woman’s murder came after she and two others attempted to sell drugs to four men who tried to use fake money.

And one of the men police say shot at the group hasn’t been arrested.

Samantha Coyner

Those details were some of the new information that came Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for Joseph Earls, the 18-year-old charged with the April murder of Samantha Coyner, 19.

Huntsville Police Department investigator David Mullins testified that Coyner, her boyfriend Corey Swann and their friend Joshua Linley met a car containing four men at the Circle K on South Parkway to do a drug deal.

Mullins said Earls, Nicholas Lopez, Jaylen Draper and Jared Waldrop were in the other car. Lopez approached Coyner and her boyfriend with fake $100 bills, Mullins said, so the two said the deal was off.

“My understanding is that it's almost like gift certificate money,” said Tim Douthit, prosecutor. “It's something that's obviously fake and the plan apparently was we are going to give them this, we are going to get the dope, and we are going to run away."

Coyner’s vehicle was followed by the one with Lopez, Earls and the others. They stopped at Hillwood Drive and Chicamauga Trail. A shooting followed in which Coyner was killed. Eleven shell casings were recovered.

Mullins said Earls and Draper both shot the gun. Only Earls has been arrested, which upset his family when they learned Draper has not been charged.

“First of all gunshot residue is a fun thing to look at on television but it's unreliable science,” said Douthit. “It's not even admissible in court. Second and most importantly the officers on scene let Mr. Earls wash his hands beforehand, so there wouldn't have been any gunshot residue anyway."

Douthit said more charges could be coming.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first time members of Coyner’s family saw the suspect, who left the courtroom laughing.

“Like he didn't care. Like he thinks the whole thing is just a joke," said Lexus Coyner, Samantha Coyner’s sister.

“I'm surprised more people didn't die, honestly, … people were shooting 11 shots. That's 11 chances that other people could have lost their lives and only one life was lost.”

Lexus Coyner said she hopes the case, which the judge sent to the grand jury after Wednesday’s hearing, makes it to trial and Earls is held accountable.

“It makes us feel good and, ya know, … if you did something I believe you should pay for it,” Lexus Coyner said. “So if (Earls) did that, he should pay for it."

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