RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – A preliminary hearing was held at the Russell County courthouse for a man charged with capital murder after two men were found dead inside a burning home in Phenix City in the early morning hours of July 12th.

Deonte Tucker is facing a capital murder charge along with other charges in the death of 20-year-old Matthew Chena and 57-year-old Melvin Ware. Court testimony Monday revealed the violent and gruesome nature that resulted in their death.

The Alabama State Fire Marshall’s Office was called in to investigate the nature of the fire when they discovered two bodies. Police testified the victims were difficult to identify due to the mutilation of the bodies.

Police say Tucker and the co-defendant Nia Dominico entered the home of the victims together. Dominco told police, Tucker admitted to her, that he shot both the victims multiple times then used an axe for overkill.

Russell County District Attorney, Rick Chancey tells WRBL that Deonte Tucker has an extensive criminal history. The state of Alabama is seeking the death penalty in this case.

“Mr. Tucker’s record shows that he, I think, was released in August of last year (2022) out of Virginia. He had originally been charged with murder and it was reduced to manslaughter. I think he got a 10-year sentence. Along with that, there was a 15-year sentence out of Savannah, Georgia for robbery. So with the history and you heard the testimony, it’s a pretty grotesque crime, brutal crime, and put all that together. And this one just, it seems if there’s a death penalty case, this one falls in that category.”

Rick Chancey – Russell County District Attorney

Police testimony also revealed Dominico and Tucker went to the house after one of the victims sold Tucker ‘bad drugs’. Dominico told police Tucker placed a blanket over the stove and turned it on to start the fire.

Investigator Jose Silva, with the Phenix City Police Department, took the stand saying there is lengthy video evidence of the defendant driving one of the victim’s truck, with time stamps indicating this was after the fire.

Police say Tucker had an interaction with police after the fires. A 911 caller informed police of a drunk person in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot on 13th Street in Phenix City. They say police bodycam footage shows a wallet falling on the floor, when police asked Tucker if it was his wallet, he said no. Police opened the wallet to find a drivers license belonging to one of the victims, Melvin Ware. Police then placed the wallet on the car. Body cam footage shows Tucker taking it back.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office assisted with cell phone records matching them to video time stamps of where Tucker was seen driving a victim’s vehicle.

Police say a separate investigation led by the Russell County Sherriff’s Office executed a drug bust on the Sunset Lodge Motel. Police say that investigation tied Tucker and Dominico to the murders.

Tucker is being held without bond in the Russell County Jail. The case will now be presented to a Grand Jury.

District Attorney Rick Chancey tells WRBL he would not be surprised if a judge issues a gag order in this case.