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‘A beautiful human being’: US Army vet among 2 found shot to death in Tuscaloosa County

Police tape (Dreamstime/TNS)

One of two men found shot to death in Tuscaloosa County was recently honorably discharged from the U.S. Army because of an injury, and his family believes he was set up to be robbed when he was killed.

Justin Michael Whitfield, 23, and Destin Rashard Holley, also 23, were found slain in separate Tuscaloosa County locations Sunday morning.

“Justin was so proud to be in the military,’’ said his sister, Jen Whitfield. “If he was going to pass, we expected him to pass defending our country. That’s something he was proud of, being a soldier.”

“He was a beautiful human being,’’ she said.

Charging documents against cousins Keondre Jazel McCall and Mance Quinnell McCall Jr. provide new details about what happened Sunday morning, but do not disclose a possible motive or the connection between the victims and the suspects.

The investigation began at 6:16 a.m. when a truck driver called 911 to report that he thought he had struck a person on Interstate 59/20 in the Fosters community. When authorities arrived on the scene, they found one of the victims dead.

Investigators recovered two shell casings a live round in the same area.

Then, at 6:55 a.m., 911 received another call of a body next to the roadway on Frog Ridge Road. That victim had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead on the scene.

Law enforcement also discovered an abandoned vehicle in Hayneville that was later determined to be registered to Justin Whitfield. There was a bullet hole through the driver’s seat headrest and a large amount of blood inside, records state.

The McCall cousins were located at a residence less than a mile away from the vehicle, according to the affidavit in the case.

In interviews, Keondre McCall told investigators he and his cousin were in the back seat while the victims were in the front seat. Holley was driving Whitfield’s vehicle and Whitfield was in the front passenger’s seat.

Keondre McCall reported that he was asleep when he was awakened by a gunshot. He told detectives that Mance McCall killed both victims and together they removed their bodies from the vehicle, dumped them in the locations where they were later found and then fled in Whitfield’s vehicle.

Mance McCall told detectives that he shot both Holley and Whitfield, but that Whitfield was still alive when they reached the interstate. At that point, he said, Keondre McCall then shot Whitfield again.

Physical evidence at the scene supports Mance McCall’s statement, the documents stated.

Both remain held without bond in the Tuscaloosa County Jail.

Efforts to locate Holley’s family weren’t immediately successful, but Whitfield’s family members are heartbroken over their loved one’s death.

Justin Whitfield was the youngest of eight siblings who grew up in a military family. His father is a retired U.S. Marine, and his brother was in the U.S. Navy.

“We grew up structured. We always grew up around productivity. He was conditioned to be a productive person,’’ Jen Whitfield said. “He was financially responsible. He wanted to serve to pay for his college to become an accountant.”

Justin Whitfield was in an airborne unit util he broke his ankle beyond repair. He received an honorable discharge in November and also received a notable settlement from the military for his injury, his sister said.

He had previously lived in Montgomery but mostly grew up in Indiana. His father and mother live in Georgia.

Jen Whitfield said her brother was on his way to Georgia from Indiana when he stopped in Montgomery to visit with Holley, and also with another sister. Whitfield and Holley had met at Lanier High School when Justin Whitfield had lived in Montgomery.

“He was really family oriented,’’ Jen Whitfield said. “He deserved none of what happened to him.”

Jen Whitfield said she believes her brother was set up to be robbed because of his recent injury settlement and was killed in the process. She said he did not know the suspects.

She described her brother as kind-hearted and somewhat sheltered, and likely had no idea what was coming. She said he left that night with his PlayStation 5.

“He was a gamer. He was probably thinking they were going to play video games,’’ she said. “I feel like they had been planning to rob him all week long, just waiting for him to come down from Indiana.”

“He was a compassionate person,’’ Jen Whitfield said. “He would have given any of those boys the shirt off his back if they had just asked.”

Justin Whitfield was in the process of figuring out his next step, where he wanted to go to school to become an accountant, his sister said. “He did have a plan for his life,’’ she said.

She said she wants her brother to be remembered for the loving, giving person that he was and wants his death to be a lesson to others.

“God is in control of us, and God wrote this plan for Justin’s life,’’ she said.

“I just want Justin’s life to be an example to be careful of the company that you keep and to deal with people that are doing what you’re doing in life,’’ she said. “It’s ok to grow away from people whose life plan is not aligned with your plan.”

“It’s OK to outgrow people and it’s OK to elevate,’’ she said, “and not keep the same company you once kept.”


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