June 14, 2012 / 3:49 PM / 8 years ago

Alabama shooting suspect denied bail, could face death penalty

OPELIKA, Alabama (Reuters) - The 22-year-old man accused in a shooting that left three dead and another three wounded at a weekend party near Auburn University in Alabama was ordered held without bail on Thursday and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Desmonte D. Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, Alabama is pictured in an undated police handout photo obtained by Reuters June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Auburn Police Division/Handout

Desmonte Leonard was told by Alabama District Court Judge Russell Bush he faces three charges of capital murder and two counts of second-degree assault during the brief hearing in Lee County Justice Center in this eastern Alabama city.

Leonard, who appeared at the hearing shackled at the waist and ankles and wearing a T-shirt and low-hanging jeans, was expected face a sixth charge in the shooting of John Robertson.

Robertson, 20, was in critical condition at a Birmingham hospital, where he underwent surgery Sunday for a gunshot wound to the head.

Leonard turned himself in to U.S. Marshals at the federal courthouse on Tuesday in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama’s state capital. His surrender ended a three-day manhunt.

Bush denied bail for Leonard. He could be sentenced to death if convicted on the capital murder charges.

Police say Leonard opened fire Saturday night at an apartment complex near the Auburn campus, killing two former Auburn football players and another man dead and wounding Robertson and two others.

Those killed included former Auburn football players Edward Christian and Ladarious Phillips. They, along with Eric Mack, a current member of the team who was wounded in the attack, were members of Auburn’s 2010 recruiting class. The Auburn team that year finished that season by winning college football’s national championship.

A third man, Demario Pitts, also was killed.

Mack and another man were treated and released shortly after the shootings.

This wasn’t the first time Leonard has been charged with gun-related violence. He was charged in 2009 with first-degree assault in the shooting of a 16-year-old boy in the crotch. Prosecutors declined to press the assault charge after the victim swore under oath that Leonard was not the gunman.

Two other men, Gabriel Thomas, 41, and Jeremy Thomas, 18, have been charged with first-degree hindering prosecution during the manhunt in the Auburn case.

Editing by Dan Burns and Doina Chiacu

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