NASHVILLE, TENN. — A former Fort Campbell soldier whose conviction in the slayings of four Taco Bell employees was overturned is now facing a robbery charge from 1994.
The state is currently deciding whether to retry David G. Housler of Radcliff, Ky., in the case in which employees were shot execution-style at the Clarksville Taco Bell, also that year.
Housler’s attorney questioned the timing of the indictment, which comes close to 20 years after the alleged crime took place. He maintains the state doesn’t have the evidence to convict Housler if it tried him again in the Taco Bell murders.
“I think this is an effort to put pressure on (Housler) and exert as much leverage as they can in any negotiations about trying to resolve this matter without another trial,” said Paul Hemmersbaugh, a Washington, D.C. attorney representing Housler. He said the state could have easily charged Housler with the robbery any time when he was in prison. He also says that the statute of limitations on the robbery case has expired.
The indictment accuses Housler of robbing a man outside Grandpa’s Hardware Store in Clarksville in January of 1994 and taking $110 in cash along with several credit cards from the victim.
The four Taco Bell employees were shot in the middle of a robbery a week after that holdup. Another former soldier, Courtney Matthews, was convicted of first-degree murder for the slayings at the restaurant. Matthews is serving life in prison for being the gunman in the robbery and killings. The employees were killed inside the restaurant in the early morning hours. Housler was implicated by authorities as the getaway driver and lookout.
Both a Montgomery County judge and the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals have said that Housler had shoddy legal representation in the case. Housler was released on bail in 2010 and released again on Tuesday after being charged with the robbery.
Investigators have had to comb through old files and re-interview witnesses as they consider whether to retry Housler.
“The evidence indicates to me that Matthews did not act alone,” District Attorney Pro Tem Joe Baugh said. “But whether that was Housler or someone else we don’t know.”
“I am as close to certain as I can be that David Housler had no involvement in this Taco Bell crime,” Hemmersbaugh said, “and I think he served 15 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and I think a just and honorable course would be for the state to let him get on with his life and not pursue this any further.”
Baugh said prosecutors have to thoroughly go through the evidence before making a decision whether to ask for another trial in the Taco Bell case.
“This is one of the most heinous crimes that’s ever been committed in Middle Tennessee,” Baugh said, “and we want to be very certain that we don’t convict someone that’s innocent but that we don’t let people that are guilty escape.”