Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn talks with players in a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college football game against LSU on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill
December 15, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) An east Alabama man was already on probation for separate crimes when he was charged with killing an Auburn University football player in a shooting eerily similar to a triple killing two years ago.

Markale Hart, 22, of Camp Hill was arrested on burglary and theft charges in 2010 and pleaded guilty to a reduced burglary charge in 2012, records show. He also pleaded guilty to a marijuana charge that year.

Hart, jailed on a murder charge in the killing of 18-year-old Jakell Lenard Mitchell, remains on probation for the burglary, for which he was sentenced to six months in jail, Tallapoosa County District Attorney Paul Jones said Monday.

''We have filed a motion to revoke his probation based on the new charges,'' Jones said Monday.

Hart appeared during a brief court hearing in Opelika on Monday. He told the judge that he has two children, ages 1 year old and 4 months, and he can't afford to pay a lawyer. The judge said he would appoint an attorney.

He was arrested Sunday in the fatal shooting of Mitchell, a redshirt freshman football player from neighboring Opelika. Mitchell's girlfriend said the player and another man began arguing during a party when a third person opened fire, killing Mitchell.

The shooting was similar in many ways to the shooting that killed two one-time Auburn players and a third man in 2012.

Mitchell was fatally shot during a late-night party at Tiger Lodge apartments, a large complex a few miles from campus that caters to students with amenities including a large pool, a clubhouse with games and study areas.

The complex - since renamed and with what promotional materials describe as added security features - is the same place where one-time football players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips and a third man, DeMario Pitts, were shot to death during an argument at a late-night gathering in June 2012.

Desmonte Leonard of Montgomery was convicted of murder and is scheduled to be sentenced next month in the triple slaying. Evidence showed Leonard had driven from Montgomery to Auburn with friends to attend a party but got into a dispute with an Auburn football player that ended in gunfire.

In the shooting last weekend, authorities said Hart is from neighboring Tallapoosa County, where he was arrested, and apparently had gone to the apartment complex for a party.

Witnesses in both cases described hearing a hail of gunshots, followed by a scramble for cover. Mitchell was taken to the same hospital as victims of the 2012 shooting.

Outside of the court hearing Monday, Lee County District Attorney Robbie Treese said he considers the apartments a trouble spot because of shootings, robberies and other crimes through the years. Treese said he is going to review the laws to see what he can do to have the apartments declared a public nuisance and perhaps shut down.

''Enough's enough,'' he said.

In a message to residents posted on Tiger Lodge's Facebook page, management said those involved in the shooting weren't residents. The note said new owners took over in 2013 and have made improvements including video cameras, improved gates to control access and ''courtesy patrols.''

''Nonetheless, tragic events such as this can still occur anywhere and at any time,'' said the statement.

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