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2 Teens Charged With Killing Elderly Man Found In Makeshift Grave In Cemetery

The relatives of 71-year-old Thomas Creel say the victim took issue with the two minor suspects in the past when they allegedly trespassed on his property. 

By Jax Miller
A Grave in a Wooded Area

Two minors have been arrested months after an elderly man was found buried in a makeshift grave in Alabama.

On Tuesday, officials with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of two suspects in connection with the death of 71-year-old Thomas Creel. Although the names and ages of the accused were not released, they are described as “two juvenile males,” now charged with murder and first-degree burglary.

On May 5, Chilton County authorities responded to a “suspicious incident” in a wooded area east of Alabama Highway 145. Sheriff John Shearon told Fox Birmingham affiliate WBRC they were alerted to the scene after cemetery caretakers found a freshly-dug grave.

What made it suspicious was that there hadn’t been a grave dug in more than 100 years.

“During that investigation, investigators located what appeared to be a hand-dug grave containing a body,” stated officials.

The then-unidentified body was partially decomposed but was determined to be that of an adult white male. Following the collection of evidence, interviews, and chasing up multiple leads, investigators learned it was Thomas Creel, who lived in Jemison, Alabama, less than 50 miles south of Birmingham.

It was determined that Creel was the victim of homicide, though a cause of death was not released.

“In today’s society, life is not valued at all. It doesn’t matter how old. It’s just what life means now,” Sheriff Shearon told WBRC. “People kill somebody just as soon as they look at them. You just never know what’s going through somebody’s mind.”

“It was unbelievable because who would have thought that somebody in their own home would be targeted like this?” Creel’s niece, Jenny Bell, told the outlet. “Unfortunately, he was brutally killed by two young kids. He didn’t deserve it.”

A motive on why the two teenagers could have killed Creel remains unknown, but Creel’s family told reporters that Creel previously took issue with the boys — who allegedly knew one another — when they trespassed on his property.

“I guess they got tired of him telling them to leave and not letting them do whatever they wanted to do ’til they took matters into their own hands,” Creel’s niece, Crystal Freeman, stated. “They murdered him, and then they partied in his house and took what they wanted.”

Loved ones said they didn’t immediately report Creel missing because he was independent and largely kept to himself.

“He lived and did everything independently,” continued Bell. “He was very self-sufficient, and that’s the way he liked it. So, it wasn’t unheard [of] or for us not to hear from him for several weeks, even longer.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation, including the Jemison Police Department, the Clanton Police Department, the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Forensic and Scientific Testing Inc.The Chilton County Sheriff’s Office credited “hundreds of hours of teamwork and collaboration” of all involved investigating agencies.

According to Creel’s obituary, he was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, where loved ones planned to scatter his ashes.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Sgt. Jennifer Bland at 1-205-755-4698 or Jennifer.bland@chiltoncountyso.org.

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