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Lincoln Co. judge keeps bond at $500K for Natchez man charged with murder, six counts of assault

A Lincoln County circuit court judge denied the request of a Natchez man charged with first-degree murder to have his half-million dollar bond reduced Monday.

Justin Devon Anderson, 23, of 314 Ann Holden Lane, is accused of shooting to death Billy Ray Thomas Jr. in late November at a private party at The Oasis nightclub and injuring six other people — four men and two women. Thomas later died of his wounds at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Anderson appeared Monday with his attorney, Zach Jex, of Natchez. Anderson wore an orange jumpsuit printed with CCSO for Copiah County Sheriff’s Office on the back and shackles on his wrists and ankles.

Judge Michael Taylor denied Jex’s request for a lesser bond of $25,000.

Anderson’s initial bond of $1 million was already reduced to $500,000 at his arraignment where he pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder and six counts of aggravated assault. Jex argued Anderson had no prior felony or misdemeanor charges against him and he would live with his mother and aunt in Natchez and be willing to wear an ankle bracelet.

He said his client is accused of shooting Thomas after words passed between the two men, not a crime of breaking into someone’s home and shooting them to death, implying that the latter was a worse crime.

“First degree murder sounds terrible. It is terrible,” he said, adding that some of the people injured weren’t shot. Some were injured by running into tables or cut by broken glass, he said.

He also argued that Anderson was not a danger to society because he surrendered to Brookhaven police a few days after the shooting.

“He could have run before he was a flight risk,” he said.

District Attorney Dee Bates said that if someone killed someone after sneaking into their home, it wouldn’t be first-degree, it would be capital murder. A first-degree murder charge means Anderson cannot receive a death penalty if found guilty. Bates also added that Anderson does not have a work history and no direct connection to Lincoln County. He asked that his bond not be reduced.

Taylor said with his charges, Anderson could be facing life in prison plus 120 years and even with no criminal history and his surrender to police, he could not lower the bond.