Dustin Byrd pleads guilty to 2021 Pike County murder

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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On Tuesday, Feb. 27, Goshen native Dustyn Byrd entered a guilty plea to the charge of murder for the 2021 killing of Jena Jo Milani.

Byrd was scheduled to begin trial for the murder on Feb. 27 but due to an illness and unforeseen scheduling conflicts the trial was continued and the State of Alabama entered into settlement negotiations with Byrd, according to 12th Judicial Circuit District Attorney James Tarbox.

According to police – at the time of Byrd’s arrest – it was alleged that Byrd shot Milani in the head and then shoved her out of a moving vehicle while traveling down Henderson Highway. According to Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas at the time, Byrd admitted to shooting Milani when he was arrested. There was also a large amount of blood in the vehicle and investigators found large amounts of marijuana, Xanax and oxycodone in the vehicle.

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“Had the case gone to trial, the State would have presented testimony and evidence that showed that on Oct. 26, 2021, defendant Byrd and Milani were traveling on Henderson Highway in Pike County,” Tarbox said in a statement. “Defendant Byrd pulled out a 9mm pistol and shot Milano four times in the head and face. Defendant Byrd then pushed Milani’s body out of the moving vehicle, grabbed the steering wheel and fled the area. Defendant Byrd was later captured with the 9mm pistol and numerous controlled substances.”

Byrd was sentenced to 50 years in the Alabama Department of Corrections as a result of his guilty plea.

“The case was handled by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jon Folmar, who did a tremendous job creating the State’s trial strategy, preparing witnesses and selecting exhibits to be presented to the jury,” Tarbox said. “I appreciate Jon’s work on this case, which resulted in the defendant agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for this significant sentence. The case was investigated by the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, the Pike County Coroner’s Office and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.”