The pandemic has caused some problems for courts across the state. While it has slowed things down for the different court processes, the courts are doing their best to try and receive all necessary information and taking on the different cases that have taken place over the past couple of years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted court dockets across the state. We have experienced delays in receiving necessary reports from the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory and the State Medical Examiner’s Office. Trial dates have also been delayed as the pandemic has prevented us from being able to safely assemble jurors,” explained District Attorney Kassie Coleman. “The District Attorney’s Office is diligently working to prepare cases for Grand Jury and trial as soon as the court deems it safe to summon jurors.”
Although the Grand Jury for September had to be cancelled due to Covid, Coleman is doing her best to work on a plan that will allow them to safely bring in jurors and go through a term of court to see the many cases still waiting to attend Grand Jury or trial.
“Our hope is that we will be able to convene a Grand Jury during the October term of court,” added Coleman. “We are currently working on a plan that allows us to safely bring jurors together in compliance with the Mississippi Supreme Court’s Emergency Administrative Orders.”
While the courts have been prevented from seeing different cases for now, Coleman did provide any status updates she could to the various cases Clarke County has had over the past couple of years:
• Allen Donta McGay and Shakeitha Deneice McGay: Allen and Shakeitha McGay were arrested felony child abuse of a 16 year old girl. The young teen had been taken to the hospital on October 30, 2019, for injuries that made it appear she had been beaten. Her aunt and uncle stated that she received her injuries from falling in the bathtub. She died a few hours after arriving to the hospital.
The preliminary autopsy report showed that the young girl died of multiple blunt force trauma. She had multiple lacerations to her head, face, back and body, including one deep enough to touch her skull, according to Clarke County Coroner Greg Fairchild. Fairchild also noted that there were older injuries that could possibly suggest a pattern of abuse. After investigation, it was also revealed that the teen had an underlying heart condition.
Although bond for each person was set at $150,000 initially, both bonds were later lowered in a deal between the prosecution and defense attorney. The couple waived their right to a preliminary hearing and was set to go straight to the Grand Jury.
They were still waiting for the final autopsy report at the time, and the state testified that they have no conclusive physical proof to connect Allen McGay to the crime at this time. Although the state asked that the charges against Allen be dropped at the time, Judge Bartee denied the motion and reduced his bond to $10,000. The state hoped to have more evidence in the case as a later date, and the case was originally supposed to go to Grand Jury in February, but it wasn’t able to make it at that time period.
Now, Coleman has given an update explaining why the case still hasn’t been brought before the Grand Jury.
“We are still waiting for the final autopsy report,” explained Coleman. “The medical examiner has been subpoenaed to appear before the next Grand Jury.”
• William Charles McMullan and Joshua K. Chancelor: Both William Charles McMullan and Joshua K. Chancelor were arrested in October of 2020.
William McMullan was charged with two counts of statutory rape, sexual battery, enticement of a child to meet for sexual purposes, molesting, and enticement of a child to produce visual depiction of sexual assault. There were more charges pending at the time since multiple victims were involved. Justice Court Judge Tobey Bartee denied bond when his case was presented.
Joshua Chancelor was charged with lustful touching and statutory rape. After hearing the evidence and circumstances surrounding the charges, Judge Bartee placed his bond at $10,000 for lustful touching and $50,000 for statutory rape.
The District Attorney does expect the cases to make it to Grand Jury soon.
• Michael St. Pierre: On April 22 of this year, Michael St. Pierre was officially sentenced for two counts of child exploitation.
St. Pierre was originally taken into custody on June 8, 2020, after he was found to have enticed a child under the age of 18 to send nude photos. The minor’s mother discovered the messages when she was going through her child’s phone and reported it to the authorities.
After being indicted by the Grand Jury and facing trial, St. Pierre was sentenced to a total of 30 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. He was also required to pay court costs of $1420.50 and a $1000 fine.
• Isaiah Roberts: Isaiah Roberts was charged with murder and given a $75,000 bond by Judge Bartee.
Authorities had received a call regarding a shooting in the Energy community on County Road 514. Upon their arrival, officers were unable to find anyone home, so dispatch tried contacting the home owner while deputies continued a search of the property.
It wasn’t long before they located the body of Ernest Ferguson behind the home. Once contact was made with the homeowner, they were informed that the name of the shooter was Isaiah Roy Roberts from Lauderdale County.
Roberts had fled the scene on foot and disposed of the weapon, which officers were able to recover, across the road.
Although he was able to elude law enforcement for a while, Roberts eventually exited the woods and approached a residence on County Road 457 where he gave himself up to the homeowners and was able to be detained without incidence by officers.
Although Coleman’s office does have a partial file prepared on this case, it is still under investigation at this time and unable to go to court yet.
• Jeffrey James and Charity James: Jeffrey James was arrested and charged with sexual battery and child abuse. Justice Court Judge Bonner set his bond at $140,000.
Charity James was also arrested and charged for accessory to sexual battery. Justice Court Judge Bartee set her bond at $30,000.
Since the child involved was a minor, there was no more information given on the case. The case was originally scheduled to go to the August Grand Jury.
At this time, the case is still under investigation and hasn’t appeared before the Grand Jury.
• Delanney Kemon Ford: Delanney Ford was charged with the murder of 72 year old Samuel Roberts.
On Sunday, September 6, 2020, a passerby found the body of Samuel Roberts on Highway 18 West, near Pachuta. At the time, the body was unidentifiable and appeared to have multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso. He was identified three days later.
Ford was charged with kidnapping and capital murder in the death of Roberts. He was captured near Taco Bell and Sam’s Club in Meridian on September 9 after his black Kia Sorento was spotted at Bonita Lakes. Eyewitnesses immediately called 911 and reported the wanted vehicle. Minutes later, the vehicle was again spotted at Sam’s Club.
Agents with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Meridian Police Department, and Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department canvased the area searching for Ford. He was spotted walking along I-20, fled, and caught near Taco Bell. Later that night, he was returned to the Clarke County Jail.
On September 11, Samuel Robert’s 73rd birthday, Ford was denied bond by Justice Court Judge Terry Bonner for the brutal murder of Samuel Roberts.
At this time, the District Attorney’s Office is unable to send this case to the Grand Jury because it is still under investigation.
If there are victims in any case who would like a status update on their case, please contact the District Attorney’s Office to receive an update.