By HEATHER HENDERSON, Metro/State Editor
The Crimson White, University of Alabama
September 10, 2003

A UA student embarking on a prank-like endeavor Tuesday morning may have caused the death of an elderly man and faces a felony murder charge, police say.

Jack Cabaniss, 75, suffered a heart attack and died Tuesday morning shortly after he and his wife found Brian Charles Sellers, 23, lying nude on their back porch, authorities said. It appeared Sellers had tried to gain entry to their Cherokee Hills home, police said.

Tuscaloosa police responded to a prowler call from Cabaniss and his wife about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday and arrived about 10 minutes later. Cabaniss suffered a heart attack shortly after their arrival, and despite an officer's efforts to revive him through CPR, Cabaniss was pronounced dead at DCH Regional Medical Center.

Sellers' clothes were found a couple blocks from the house, and the screen door of the porch was torn off, said Lt. Lloyd Baker, commander of the Tuscaloosa Metro Homicide Unit.

Sellers, originally charged with public intoxication and public ludeness, later received a felony murder charge.

"After consulting with the district attorney, we believe there's probable cause that Mr. Sellers' actions contributed to the death of Mr. Cabaniss," Baker said.

A felony murder charge can be issued when police suspect a felony act or attempted felony act may have contributed to a death, Tuscaloosa County prosecutor Chris Hargett said.

Such a charge carries a Class A ranking, which means Sellers could face anywhere from 10 to 99 years in prison if convicted, Hargett said.

If Sellers was voluntarily under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Hargett said, his charges would not be eased unless authorities determine he was too intoxicated to form a "required mental intention," or make a decision about, his actions.

Sellers has been released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $100,000 bond, jail officials said.

By HEATHER HENDERSON, Metro/State Editor
The Crimson White, University of Alabama
September 29, 2003

Little is known to the public about a man allegedly involved in an unusual incident last month that ended in the death of a 75-year-old man.

Those who call UA student Brian Charles Sellers "friend" say there is more to the man than the lone mug shot shown in the media or the speculation about why he was found unclothed on a stranger's patio.

In fact, they say, that man isn't the Brian they know at all.

Jack Cabaniss, 75, called 911 at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 9 to report that a nude man was trying to break into his Cherokee Hills home, Tuscaloosa police said. When police arrived, they charged Sellers, 23, with public intoxication and public lewdness. After Cabaniss suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after police arrived, they changed the charge to felony murder. Police said they found signs of attempted entry into the house, such as a torn patio door screen.

Before the incident, Sellers worked as a full-time cook at Epiphany Cafe, a new restaurant on Greensboro Avenue that specializes in upscale Southern cuisine. Sellers worked two weeks before its Sept. 3 opening and about one week after the opening, said Tres Jackson, co-owner and head chef.

"[He was] always on time, always did a good job," he said. "A nice guy. From what I understand, a good student as well. Everyone liked him."

"Everyone I came in contact with that worked with him or knew him had nothing but good things to say about him," he said.

Jackson said he did not know of Sellers having any substance abuse problems, and he said Sellers never showed up at work under the influence.

"He seemed pretty responsible," he said.

Jackson said Sellers was an outstanding cook with a good résumé and references. Before taking the job at Epiphany's, Sellers had worked for more than a year at Evangeline's, serving as head chef at the fine-dining restaurant located in the Galleria of Tuscaloosa on McFarland Boulevard.

Sellers was pursuing a degree in restaurant and hospitality management at the University before the incident.

Sellers graduated from culinary school in Miami and worked for renowned chef Frank Stitt at two of his Birmingham restaurants, including the French bistro Chez Fonfon, before moving to Tuscaloosa.

"Two of the best restaurants in the state of Alabama," Jackson said. "He knows his stuff."

Jackson said Sellers moved back to Birmingham just three days after the incident, so he did not have to think about whether to keep Sellers on staff.

"I hated to see him leave," he said.

Sellers worked about 40 hours a week, mostly nights, with weeknights ending around 9:30. Jackson could not recall if Sellers had worked the night of the alleged incident.

Barbara Dawson, a former coworker of Sellers in Birmingham, said she "liked Brian," the "very meek" cook with "a beautiful smile."

"He was a great guy," she said. "He was a good, conscientious worker, kind of shy and quiet."

Dawson described the moment she heard the report about Sellers.

"I was at my house, and in another room I heard [the television news] saying, 'Tuscaloosa, something, something, Brian Sellers.' Then a photo of him [was shown] on the screen," she said.

"I was very surprised to hear what happened," she said.

Brandon Kennedy, a UA senior majoring in English and marketing, said he's been a friend of Sellers for more than a year.

"Brian is probably one of the most gentle people I've ever met," he said. "He's the type of guy that when he gets mad, he doesn't get angry and cuss; he just gets really, really quiet."

Kennedy said that when news of the incident reached Sellers' friends, "Everybody was in shock, I think."

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