Defendant pleads not guilty in ’18 murder

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A Bogue Chitto man has pleaded not guilty to murder in the 2018 shooting death of a Lawrence County man.

Troy Galarza was formally arraigned before Judge David Strong in Lincoln County Justice Court Tuesday.

Galarza, then 50, of 959 Bogue Chitto Road SE, was arrested in January 2019 and charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Wesley O. Watts, 34, of Jayess. Watts’ body had been found in a field near Galarza’s residence on Dec. 5, 2018.

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Galarza was arrested Dec. 5 on a Rankin County bench warrant for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, but was not charged with the shooting until one month later.

“Based on our initial information, they’d had some type of dispute dealing with a car, and Troy allegedly shot (Watts),” Sheriff Steve Rushing said at the time. “It was Troy’s car, and supposedly Wesley wrecked it. There could be some more issues going on between the two of them.”

Rushing said the murder may actually have occurred in early November. Watt’s family reported him missing to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department after he was last seen getting into a black pickup truck at the Pricedale One Stop on Hwy. 44 Nov. 5. His body was found Dec. 6 after deputies received a tip and executed a search warrant on the property.

Rushing said the two men had been acquaintances and stayed together at Galarza’s residence “off and on.” The sheriff said Galarza had been their suspect from the beginning.

Several weapons were recovered at the suspect’s residence and were sent to the crime lab. Galarza was to be brought to Lincoln County court for a preliminary hearing once his case in Rankin County wrapped up, Rushing said.

During the Tuesday arraignment, Lincoln County Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams read the grand jury’s indictments of murder and possession of a 7.62 mm rifle by a convicted felon.

Trial has been set on the Watts case for Sept. 7.