Man sentenced to life in woman’s July 2006 killing

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 19, 2007

A Brookhaven man was convicted of murder Thursday and sentencedto life in prison in the death of a city woman at a local trailerpark in July 2006.

Julian C. “Juju” Williams, 34, was convicted around 1:45 p.m.Thursday in the murder of Rhonda Michelle Rushing Mullen, 32, atLouise Blades Trailer Park in July 2006. Mullen’s naked body wasfound under the bed in a trailer home at the park.

Following a tumultuous sentencing hearing that saw the victim’suncle attempt to assault the defendent, Circuit Court Judge DavidStrong sentenced Williams to life in the custody of the MississippiDepartment of Corrections, assessed a $10,000 fine and ordered himto pay court costs. Williams will be eligible for parole at the ageof 65.

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The courtroom erupted into pandemonium when Williams was giventhe opportunity to address the court. He expressed his remorse forthe crime when he said “it’s hurt me more than anything about whathappened to her.”

” My heart goes out to the family,” Williams said. “I got to apoint where they talking how she was a victim and how she was adopehead. She wasn’t. She was a human being just like anybody else…”

Mullen’s uncle Dennis McCaffery, however, heard no more afterWilliams called his niece a dopehead. He charged the court in arage and hurdled the railing, where he was met in the air by ahandful of law enforcement officers who took him to a nearby walland subdued him.

Meanwhile, other officers strained to calm other members of thefamily, some of whom were also threatening to charge the court orexpressed concern for McCaffery.

Following the scuffle, McCaffery was taken to jail after beingarrested on a contempt of court charge. Later, he was brought backto court and expressed no remorse when he was brought before Strongfor a ruling on his courtroom antics.

The man said all through the trial the attorneys painted Mullenas a bad person because of her drug habit, but he could tolerate itbecause that was their jobs. However, he said he could not allowWilliams to criticize her and portray himself as the victim in thetragedy.

“We are a very close family,” McCaffery said. “I agree he gotwhat he deserved. But to let him stand up there and say that he’sthe victim – no, sir.”

Strong sentenced McCaffery to 24 hours in jail and assessed a$100 fine for contempt of court.

Williams was convicted of strangling Mullen after trading drugsfor sex in the July 2006 incident. He claimed in a taped confessionthat the slaying was because he felt he had been set up and wasabout to be robbed.

Williams, who was expected to testify on his own behalf, decidednot to take the stand after a discussion with Strong. After theprosecution rested its case around 11:30 a.m. Friday, the defenseoffered no witnesses and rested its case.

During the trial, defense attorney Gus Sermos had argued thecircumstances of the case could justify a manslaughter conviction,but not murder.

“There was absolutely no reason, no motive for him to kill her,which would be murder,” Sermos said during closing arguments.

Relatives of the victim were also permitted to address the courtbefore Williams was sentenced.

Stacy Mullen, the victim’s husband, said the trial was hard tosit through, and he wanted to clarify the image of his wife.

“There was a lot of talk about her during this trial,” he said.”She was a good mom, a good wife, a good friend.”

Jennifer Ford, Mullen’s sister, said Mullen realized she had aproblem with drugs and had asked the family to pray for her onnumerous occasions and had unsuccessfully sought help to overcomeher addiction.

“When you can’t help people, you bury them because that’s whatit comes to,” Ford said.

In his remarks, Strong said the trial proved what a plaguecocaine is to society, because involvement with cocaine leads onlyto jail or prison.

“This is a story about crack cocaine,” he said. “It’s thescourge of this society and this is where all the roads end.”