Godbolt case bound over to Lincoln County grand jury

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Pike County Justice Court judge on Wednesday found there was enough evidence against murder suspect Willie Cory Godbolt for his case to be bound over to a Lincoln County grand jury.

It will be up to that jury to decide whether to indict the Bogue Chitto man charged with killing a deputy, his mother-in-law and six others who were his relatives or acquaintances, the judge said. Witnesses have said the fatal shootings started after Godbolt was arguing with his estranged wife.

Godbolt, 35, went before Judge Bryan Harbour in Lincoln County Circuit Court, although the case is still in Justice Court. The courtroom in the Lincoln County Government Complex was used to allow more space for the eight victims’ families to attend. The courtroom, which seats about 80, was filled with family and friends of the victims, who were ushered into the courtroom from a side room where they’d been waiting.

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Several print and television media organizations were represented, though no cameras were allowed in the courtroom. Dozens of law enforcement officers representing the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, the Brookhaven Police Department, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations stood along the three walls.

Godbolt entered the courtroom at 11 a.m. wearing a yellow golf shirt and khaki pants. He was cuffed at his wrists and ankles, and the shackles were connected with a waist chain.

As he shuffled to his seat, he looked at the family members of the eight people he is accused of shooting to death on May 27 and May 28.

Tissues were passed down the aisle to those who wept as he entered.

Judge Harbour said he knew nothing about the case and that it was important for him to hear every word by the lawyers and the one witness to determine if there was probable cause to have it bound over to a grand jury.

The hearing took less than 15 minutes.

Jason Legget of MBI was the only witness called to the stand. He recalled the events that took place the night of the murders.

“I responded to the scene on 2871 Lee Drive after there were reports of an officer not responding,” Leggett said. “It was chaotic when I pulled up. I was at that first scene a total of 10 hours.”

He said witnesses told him they saw Godbolt shoot the victims.

Four people were fatally shot inside the Lee Drive home on May 27: Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy William Durr, 36, Godbolt’s mother-in-law Barbara May Mitchell, 55, her sister Brenda May, 53,  and her daughter, Tocarra May, 35, all of Bogue Chitto.

Leggett was not the investigator on the incident at 1658 Coopertown Road, which occurred after midnight on May 28.

MBI investigator Luke Herrington took over at that scene. He was not in court to take the stand, but it was determined that two victims were killed at the house on Coopertown Road by gunshot wounds: cousins Austin Edwards, 11, and, Jordan Blackwell, 17, both of Brookhaven.

Leggett went to the house at 312 East Lincoln Road, which is where Godbolt surrendered to police. A married couple were killed by gunshot wounds there: Ferral Burrage, 45, and Sheila Burrage, 46, of Brookhaven.

Leggett referred to videos he had seen by the media of Godbolt confessing to the murders.

Moments after he was arrested May 28, a handcuffed Godbolt told a reporter from The Clarion-Ledger, on video, that someone in the first house called law enforcement while he was talking to his wife and in-laws about his wish to take his children home.

“My pain wasn’t designed for him. He was just there,” Godbolt said of the deputy.

Godbolt also said in the video: “My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets. Suicide by cop was my intention. I ain’t fit to live, not after what I done.”

Godbolt did not speak during Wednesday’s court appearance.

The murder weapons — two rifles and two pistols — were also recovered at the house on East Lincoln Road. One pistol belonged to Ferral Burrage, the rest belonged to Godbolt, he said.

The defense attorneys representing Godbolt are Gus Sermos and Paul Luckett. The defense asked Leggett questions concerning eye witness accounts and asked if they would be willing to provide statements or if they have provided statements. Leggett said they have audio recordings of witnesses describing the events and will type them up if necessary.

They also asked about the murder weapons – where they are located and if any forensic tests have been done on them yet.

Leggett said they are at the Mississippi State Crime Lab, but wasn’t sure if tests have been completed. The defense rested after the two questions.

“After carefully listening to the state’s case, I am convinced that probable cause has happened,” Harbour said. “Eight crimes were committed and I grant the case to be turned over to the Lincoln County grand jury.”

District Attorney Dee Bates said it will take time to get the evidence that was collected from the three locations processed by the Mississippi Crime Lab and the autopsy reports from the medical examiner.

“We don’t have that yet, and it would be fall before I expected to see anything from past experiences,” he told The Daily Leader.

Bates said it could be November before a grand jury hears the case.

Harbour was appointed Monday by Lincoln County Circuit Judge Michael Taylor because Lincoln County Justice Court Judges Roger Martin and Joe Portrey recused themseves from hearing the case. No reason for the recusal was listed on their request to Taylor.

Godbolt had his first court appearance May 30 at the Copiah County Justice Court in Gallman.

He was charged with one count of capital murder in Durr’s death and seven counts of first degree murder for the deaths of the other seven people. If found guilty, Godbolt could face the death penalty or life without parole for the capital murder charge. First degree murder can carry a penalty of life in prison with the eligibility of parole.

Martin, who preceded over that appearance, denied bond for Godbolt. He has been housed since his arrest May 28 in Copiah County jail

Court documents detailing the charges against Godbolt state that he knew Durr was a law enforcement officer when he allegedly killed him.