By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Atmore man, behind bars for the past six years on a capital murder charge, was released from jail on the eve of his scheduled trial date after prosecutors failed to produce the evidence against him.
Escambia County Detention Center’s website shows that Yeldon Devonta Rostchild, who was 23 when he was indicted for capital murder in July 2017 and was set to go before a jury this week, was freed from the facility on January 3.
Official reports show that Rostchild and Darrell Octavius Brown were accused of shooting Atmore resident Donta Demorris Russell, who was found dead inside his car when sheriff’s deputies responded to a Martin Luther King Drive address in April 2017. Rostchild was formally indicted for capital murder three months later.
Mobile attorney Christine Hernandez, the sixth attorney Rostchild has had since his arrest, had not responded by Tuesday’s press deadline to a request for comment on her client’s release.
In an interview with Mobile television station WPMI, Hernandez said she was court-appointed last year to represent the capital murder suspect. She demanded to see the evidence against Rostchild, but District Attorney Steve Billy couldn’t produce it.
“It’s not a matter of evidence from the state; this is a matter of it didn’t exist,” she said. “We’re talking audio statements, fingerprints, we’re talking reports, cell phones. They said they had search warrants; there’s no search warrants. They say they have Facebook (evidence). They didn’t have any of that.”
Rostchild agreed to plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice, and the DA ordered him released for time served.
Billy told the Mobile station time had weakened the case against Rostchild.
“Anytime a case is this old, the evidence tends to weaken, and that was the case here,” he said.
Hernandez said she believes Rostchild, who has a fairly extensive criminal history, could present a strong argument that his civil rights have been violated by the lengthy jail sentence.
“He’ll never get those years locked up back,” she said in the TV interview. “You need to make the prosecution do their job. If they’re not going to do their job, and they will trample on the rights of this particular individual just because he had priors … what would he do to you or me?”
While the Atmore man gained his freedom, another capital murder defendant lost his for good.
Judge Todd Stearns sentenced a Michigan man, Caleb Scott Anderson, to life without parole after Anderson entered a guilty plea to capital murder in the 2022 stabbing death of Flomaton resident Dwight Anthony Dixon.
Court documents show the defendant, who was easily identified after he left his cell phone at the murder scene, had driven to Alabama in a car that was stolen from a Green Bay man who Wisconsin authorities believe Anderson also killed.