Alabama slaying suspect had run-ins in O.C.

A bloody slaying in June captured the attention of a rural swath of northwestern Alabama, but the crime went largely unnoticed in Costa Mesa, even though events in the city could help determine the accused killer's fate.

About 55,000 residents live in the more than 300 square miles of Colbert County, Ala.

Colbert's sheriff, Ronnie May, said it's unusual to have even one homicide a year in his jurisdiction, so when a man was arrested on suspicion of killing his ex-wife while they rolled down a country road, people took notice.

Homajean "Lee" Grisham III, 35, allegedly stabbed Jessica Broadfoot, 32, in his truck while he was driving.

Charges describe him pulling over and continuing to stab her, spilling her blood throughout the passenger compartment.

"It was a pretty horrific scene," said Kyle Brown, Colbert's chief assistant district attorney.

Colbert County District Atty. Bryce Graham charged Grisham with capital murder in July, and a grand jury has since indicted him.

Prosecutors are considering whether they'll seek the death penalty or life without parole in a trial that will probably start next year.

If the district attorney pursues capital punishment, Grisham's history of drugs and violence in Costa Mesa may determine whether he'll live or die.

Days after Grisham's arrest in June, Sheriff May contacted the Costa Mesa Police Department. He'd run a background check on Grisham and found a warrant for him out of Orange County.

Costa Mesa police forwarded their case file on the alleged killer.

Alabama prosecutors said they don't know why or how long Grisham was in Orange County, but his first run-in with police, according to court records, was in September 2011, when he was cited for driving with an open container of alcohol.

From there, his infractions became more serious.

Newport Beach police arrested Grisham for meth possession that same month. He pleaded guilty, and an Orange County Superior Court judge sentenced him to drug treatment and probation.

Costa Mesa Det. Sgt. Ed Everett said officers encountered Grisham several times for suspected domestic violence and restraining-order violations.

In most cases, charges either weren't filed or they were dismissed, Everett said.

But on Sept. 15, 2012, Costa Mesa police arrested Grisham on suspicion of abusing someone he'd known for years: Broadfoot.

Prosecutors have referred to Broadfoot as Grisham's girlfriend but said this week that they don't know the exact nature of the relationship other than the fact that they were briefly married more than five years ago.

"Outside of that, I don't know if they were working on trying to get their relationship going," Graham, the district attorney, said.

The two were both from Colbert, Graham said.

Typically, Grisham's crimes in Costa Mesa wouldn't affect the Alabama trial, Brown said.

But in this case, they could qualify him for the death penalty if prosecutors can show prior acts of violence against Broadfoot, according to prosecutors.

"They are [important] if they go to show a motive and an intent," Brown said. "They could be very important."

Weeks after his Sept. 15, 2012, arrest in Costa Mesa, Grisham pleaded guilty to threatening Broadfoot and holding her against her will. He also admitted to another felony charge of meth possession.

A judge sentenced him to a year in jail and five years of probation, but court records show that his probation was revoked in April and that Grisham was listed as a fugitive.

Two months later, Broadfoot was dead.

"My understanding," Everett said, "is Grisham followed the victim back to Alabama."

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