Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuscaloosa, AL: Three charged in Hale slaying

By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
Three people have been charged in connection with the death of a Hale County woman whose body was found in an SUV more than three years ago.

Teresa Whaley Mayfield’s husband, Scott Mayfield, was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation to commit murder. Willie Underwood has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and Dawn Lavender has been charged with murder.

A Hale County grand jury indicted the three suspects on Friday. Mayfield, 47, was arrested near his home on County Road 42 in Akron, according to a press release issued by the Hale County Sheriff’s Office. Underwood, 47, was arrested Sunday at his home near Havana. Lavender, 42, who also goes by Kimberly Binion, was arrested at her job at Phifer Wire in Tuscaloosa. Her residence was not listed. All three remained in the Hale County Jail on Monday afternoon with bail set at $750,000 each.

The indictments had not been filed in Hale County Circuit Court by Monday afternoon.

“Mr. Mayfield allegedly hired a woman to kill his ex-wife,” said Michael Jackson, the district attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit, which includes Hale County. “Underwood is one of the people he solicited. The Sheriff’s Office and the (Alabama Bureau of Investigation) did a good job of connecting the dots and piecing the evidence together.”

Jackson did not discuss what evidence led to the indictments.

For three years, authorities have not revealed how Mayfield was killed. Jackson said Monday that she died from a single gunshot wound to the head fired from a small-caliber handgun.

The 44-year-old mother of three was found dead in her silver GMC Yukon, parked on a small, unnamed dirt road just off County Road 21, within a mile of her home on Duncan Loop Road in the Stewart community. Her family has said that her injuries were so severe that she could not be embalmed.

It is unclear what connection Underwood and Lavender have to the Mayfields. Scott Mayfield worked at Phifer Wire in Tuscaloosa at one time, according to court documents. It was unclear Monday whether he was still employed there. It is possible that Mayfield and Lavender are co-workers.

Hale County Sheriff Ken Ellis stated in the press release that the investigation is ongoing.

“After three long years, the Whaley family can finally rest a little easier knowing I never gave up on finding Teresa’s killers,” he stated in the release. “The Whaley family has been through a lot. I hate this incident ever happened for all the families involved. In this situation, no one wins.”

Scott Mayfield spoke to The Tuscaloosa News several times after his wife’s death, telling a reporter that he had been repeatedly interviewed by investigators. He said that he had hired an attorney just days after her death and had hired a private investigator to find the killer.

“It’s been hard for the past year to be living with this holding over my head,” Mayfield said in July 2008. “Every time you turn around, I feel like they’re looking back at me. It’s been tough to keep my head up and keep my kids focused on being kids and do the things I need to do as a father.”

That summer, Teresa Mayfield’s family members began posting fliers at businesses between Moundville and Tuscaloosa — pleas to the public for information about the unsolved murder. They were dismayed when the fliers began disappearing.

Scott Mayfield told The Tuscaloosa News that the couple’s young sons wanted the fliers to be removed.

“I’m letting them have their say-so in it. Everywhere they turn, they’re seeing their mother’s picture,” he said. “And it’s not that they really didn’t want them up, it’s just that they were never asked.”

Hale County Sheriff Ken Ellis came to know Teresa Mayfield because their daughters played softball together in Moundville. He never publicly said that Scott Mayfield was a suspect in the case.

He issued a press release in December 2008, asking for the community’s help in the case, but failed to mention Scott Mayfield’s name when naming people who were affected by her death.

“The holidays are here, and I know it’s very hard on the mother, sister, brother and children of Ms. Mayfield,” he stated in the release. “I know someone close to the killer knows something.”

The Mayfields’ children include a daughter who is about 20 years old, and sons who are about 10 and 13.

Reba Whaley, Teresa Mayfield’s mother, said she was relieved when she heard about the arrests.

“I am so glad there have been arrests made, but I’m so saddened that it was my son-in-law,” she said.

“I am so thankful to Sheriff Ellis and the ABI who have been on this for the last three years,” Whaley said. “Now I want to know why. Why did her life have to be taken?”

The Mayfields lived next door to Scott Mayfield’s parents in Stewart, a community a few miles south of Moundville.

Whaley said that the last time she spoke to her daughter, two days before she died, she had been planning a trip to Sam’s Club in Tuscaloosa to buy food. Scott Mayfield’s father was in the late stages of terminal cancer and the family was expecting a lot of company, she said. He died the night of Teresa Mayfield’s funeral visitation.

“I’m not just saying this because she was my daughter. She would do anything for anybody. She was just a good-hearted person,” she said.

Scott Mayfield said last June that he doubted a vigil that Whaley had planned would help solve the case.

“If anybody did or does know something, they would have said something by now, I’d think,” he said. “But (the service) is not going to hurt, and it may turn over some new leaves.”

He said at the time that members of the community still suspected he was involved in his wife’s death.

“That bag is getting heavy that I’m toting on my back,” he said at the time. “I’d love to find out so I can get this off my back.”

Another time, he told a reporter that he and his wife had a good relationship.

“We did not have a bad marriage by any means. But if I wanted out of the marriage, I’d go get an attorney and get a divorce.”

Reach Stephanie Taylor at


news.com or 205-722-0210.

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