The Lowndes County Sheriffs Department dropped capital murder charges on three young men and arrested five new suspects in the murder of 19-yr-old William Deshun Stallings. Investigators received new information regarding the murder last Wednesday night that led to the Friday arrest of five residents of Reform, Alabama: Richard Lamar Lee, 16, Joshua Miquel Taylor, 23,Brandon Lakeith Brown, 25, Johnny Ray Brock, 22 and Cameron Jacuse Merriweather, 24.
The three original men arrested and charged with Capital Murder were cleared of any involvement by the Lowndes County Sheriffs Friday morning. Quinton “Cheeze” Harris was released from LCADC Friday afternoon around 1:30pm. Alexander “Slugga” Brown is being held by the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) for probation violation for possession of a weapon by a felon for two guns found in the home he was staying. Kahlid Roby is also being held on a probation violation for a failed drug test administered when he was brought in on the murder.
MDOC officials told The Packet Wednesday that Roby will stay in custody until he can be placed into a drug rehabilitation facility and that Brown will remain in jail until a revocation hearing takes place or (theoretically) the gun charge is dropped. Sources close to the investigation said that there is evidence that goes against Brown’s family’s claim that the guns found in the home belonged to his father. [I spoke with several lawyers this week who explained to me that the burden of proof for a revocation hearing is much less than for a normal trial. MDOC will only need to see that the guns most likely belonged to Brown, and not necessarily beyond a reasonable doubt that they did. CK]
The families of the three young men arrested expressed outrage that their boys were held without a phone call or court appearance for several days last week. Quinton Harris told The Packet shortly after he was released that he did not receive a phone call from when he was arrested Monday afternoon until he submitted a formal written request on Thursday. According to records, Harris did not appear in front of a Judge before the charges were dropped and he was released Friday. People close to the investigation said that while suspects are often not allowed phone calls the first day of an investigation, it is not standard procedure to withold phone calls for more than one day.
Suspects are expected- by rule- to be brought in front of a judge within 48 hrs of being charged with a crime. Lowndes County authorities arrested and charged the three men Monday afternoon, but did not serve the actual warrants for capital murder until Wednesday. Both Brown and Roby were immediately placed on hold by MDOC for their respective probation violations, which eventually transferred all due process responsibilities to MDOC for Kahlid Roby, and therefore an appearance in front of a judge would not be applicable.
Alexander Brown was placed on a MDOC hold, but the charge for Possession of a Weapon by a Felon is brought forth by Lowndes County, therefore the burden of due process falls to them. Brown did not appear in front of a judge until Wednesday afternoon of this week, a full six days from his original arrest and four from his warrant being served. Lowndes County Chief Deputy Greg Wright said Wednesday that because the Capital Murder warrants were not handed to the detention center staff in a timely matter, the appearance before a judge was delayed. Wright said :”I am looking into the timeline- I want to make sure when the warrants were issued and what steps were made when to hold a preliminary hearing. There are some factors I cannot confirm right now, such as the Judge’s availability these particular days. But I assure you we are looking into the matter”.
Brown had his bail set yesterday at $20,000 on the weapon charge, but is expected to remain in custody until the next session of Circuit Court in August unless charges are dropped by the county. Jackie Brown, mother of Alexander Brown, told The Packet that she can’t believe that her son is still in jail. “They know they were wrong, now all they are trying to do is cover it up. It’s just wrong…he shouldn’t be there in the first place. Those are my husband’s guns- and I told them that. I haven’t been told anything about what’s going on.” Jackie Brown said Wednesday.
Quinton Harris’ mom, Sharronda Green, spoke with The Packet along with Quinton Harris in their south side home Friday afternoon just after her son was released from prison. Green said that she is frustrated with the Sheriffs Department for charging her son with Capital Murder and then dropping the charges four days later. She also was outraged that her son was not allowed to speak with her or make any phone calls until Thursday morning.
“The Sheriffs charged children with this. How are you gonna charge a child with murder? I have never seen nothin’ like this….my son was sleeping when the shooting happened. Mrs. Brown told them that…but they didn’t seem to care” Green said.
She said she was going to take her son to the hospital to get his shoulder looked at. Harris was complaining of a sore shoulder that he said resulted from arresting officers “kneeing” him in the back when they arrested him.
“I was layin on the bed when they came in…I didn’t even move, and they treated me like I’m a convict…same thing when I got to jail, they kept me separated from the general population and left me around murderers…I had a bunch of people who saw me that night…they knew where I was, I was at home” Harris said.
Sharronda Green said that she knew her son was innocent, and that everything being said about him in the media was wrong:” God answered my prayers but I’m still troubled by the way the Sherrifs wouldn’t listen to Mrs. Brown.” Jackie Brown told The Packet that she was glad the investigators came to their senses, but is angry that her son still hasn’t been released.
“My son’s probation officer told me that we are allowed to keep our guns in the house…just keep them from your son–and that’s what we did. They need to let him go.” Brown said.
“I wasn’t worried in there, cause I knew I didn’t do anything. Me and William were cool. Slugga and William dated the same girl at different times–Slugga even set the two of them up together….. but this wasn’t a deal between us. I was sleeping that night, and my girlfriend even called me when she heard the sirens that was going there…I didn’t realize till later what that was. I’m not a convict- but the treated me like one. I offered to do a lie detector test and all- but they were not hearing any of it.” Harris said. Sources close to the investigation said that all three young men being released refused to speak to investigators while in jail.
“What were we supposed to tell them? I can’t talk about something I didn’t do.” Harris said.
Jackie Brown said that the only piece of physical evidence the police brought forward against the men were a footprint they said matched one of the boy’s shoes. Sources said that the majority of the information came from two people, one of which gave seemingly credible information that Harris, Roby and Brown were involved. Lowndes County Investigator Eli Perrigin used that information to obtain arrest warrants for the three original suspects after conferring with the District Attorney’s office.
A new person approached Detective Perrigin late Wednesday night with information that implicated the five men from Reform, Alabama. The new information was reportedly so specific and detailed that Perrigin and other investigators immediately followed up on the tip and contacted Reform Police with the suspects names. [The prime suspect was reported to be applying for a job Friday morning with the City of Reform at the very moment Lowndes County Investigators called local police for assistance-CK.]
The Reform suspects were arrested without incident Friday morning and transported to LCADC just before noon. All five men appeared before a Justice Court Judge at the jail Wednesday and are being held without bond. According to Lowndes Chief Deputy Greg Wright none of the five men have what he would classify as a serious criminal history, noting that the most had only speeding tickets on their record (One suspect did allegedly have a misdemeanor domestic violence charge- I could not confirm if he had been convicted-CK).
Several sources close to the investigation said that at least one of the men has confessed to the shooting and concrete physical evidence has been obtained, although authorities would not confirm that information. Chief Deputy Greg Wright did say that the department was “very confident” that they had the correct suspects in custody. Wright said that further charges could result from the investigation.[I would assume any additional charges would be against the primary source in the initial arrest and be for providing false information.CK][Several law enforcement officers privately expressed frustration with local media outlets’ emphasis of possible gang involvement in the original investigation. The interpretation of the investigation by the media may have possibly led to a dangerous situation involving the original men arrested, as actual gang members may seek retribution them. The only quote that I have from Chief Deputy Wright during the first week was that two gang names had been mentioned by one of the sources that led to the arrests. No direct implication was ever tied to any specific suspect by Wright that I know of. The Packet mentioned in last week’s paper that none of the family’s involved had any reason to believe their children were actively involved in gang activity and Mike Love, a witness and friend of the deceased, stressed to The Packet that he felt the gang banger hypothesis was “being blown way out of proportion”.
I do think that the initial investigation of Roby, Harris and Brown was carried out in good faith by Deputies, just not in a great procedural manner. Investigators made the arrests based on what they believed to be solid leads, and I think that they realized early Thursday that they had erred in the initial arrests. The internal communication between investigators and detention center staff was clearly substandard and it resulted in a possible due process violation. The detention center staff can only act on orders from investigators as to restrictions on inmates and cannot place a suspect before a judge without being ordered to do so by another party. I believe the families have a right to question why a court appearance was not provided quickly and why no phone calls were allowed. It seems to me the investigation turned so quickly to the Reform suspects that the proper paperwork may have gotten overlooked. -CK] 0