Trio Faces Capital Murder, Accessory Charges In Jackson County

Three weeks after a Florida man was found murdered in Jackson County, authorities believe they have the killer and two accomplices in custody. Police arrested Christopher Hutcherson in Fort Walton Beach, then brought him back to Jackson County so he could face capital murder charges.

On January 24th, Hutcherson allegedly stabbed James Brown Smith, dumped his body in some woods, drove Smith's car to George County, and then burned it.

Captain Mick Sears with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department said deputies received a tip early Wednesday morning which lead them to the two suspects. He said Winford Hutcherson Junior and Debbie Merritt admitted during an interview to taking part in the homicide.

Hutcherson, 43, and his 41 year old girlfriend were arrested Tuesday afternoon at their home in Gulf Park Estates. Sears said interviews with the two also led investigators to a third suspect, Hutcherson's younger brother.

"They led us to the primary suspect, or the guy who did the stabbing, Christopher Hutcherson," Sears said.

34 year old Christopher Hutcherson is charged with Capital Murder in the death of James Brown Smith. Winford Hutcherson and Merritt are charged with Accessory to Capital Murder.

"Their involvement, up to this point, is following him up to George County, where they picked him up from where he dropped the vehicle off and set fire to it, bringing him back to Jackson County and then, in turn, taking him and dropping him off in Florida."

Christopher Hutcherson was arrested Tuesday evening at a friend's house in Walton County Florida. Sears said he's almost certain robbery was motive for the murder

"We've recovered several pieces of property of the victim from the homes of the suspects."

They may have also recovered the weapon used to kill Smith.

"We have recovered several knives. One or two of them do appear to have some sort of stain on them, but we don't know if they're blood at this time or if they're the weapons used."

They'll know for sure after the state crime lab completes its examination of the knives.

Christopher Hutcherson is being held in the Jackson County Adult Detention Center without bail.

Beside the accessory to murder charge, his brother, Winford also faces a drug charge. His bond was set at $130,000.

Debbie Merritt's bond is $55,000.

Deputies are looking for a fourth suspect in this case, 60 year old Craig Ellis Hite.