Teens charged after Alabama 71-year-old’s body found in hand-dug grave, police say

Published 10:40 pm Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Two teenagers were arrested Tuesday after police charged them with murdering a 71-year-old Alabama man and burying him in a hand-dug grave at a cemetery in Chilton County.

The body of Thomas Creel, 71, was discovered in May when a cemetery caretaker noticed the hand-dug grave at a cemetery. The site was immediately suspect as the cemetery hadn’t seen a new grave dug in approximately 100 years.

Creel was born in Mississippi, his obituary indicated.

The suspects are being charged with murder and burglary first degree, the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office reported.

CCSO does not release the names of juvenile suspects.

This investigation began on May 5 in response to finding “what appeared to be a hand-dug grave containing a body” on Alabama Highway 145, according to the sheriff’s office.

“Investigators processed that scene and recovered the partially decomposed body of what appeared to be an adult white male,” according to a CCSO press release. “The body was transported to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences and the manner of death was determined to be Homicide. Since May 05, 2022, Investigators from the Special Operations Division have continued to gather evidence, conduct interviews, and follow up on multiple leads. As a result of that investigation, the victim in this case has been identified.”

The CCSO release stated, “These arrests are the result of hundreds of hours of teamwork and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies.”

Jemison Police Department, the Clanton Police Department, the Chilton County Coroner’s Office, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office and Forensic and Scientific Testing Inc. in Thorsby also assisted in the investigation.

Relatives told WBRC-TV that they believe Creel was killed by the teenagers because he’d had trouble with teens coming onto his property. Creel’s relatives also said the teens partied in Creel’s house after the murder.