Lincoln County Murder suspect granted bail reduction

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

A capital murder suspect was granted a reduction in bail following a request presented in Lincoln County Circuit Court Wednesday morning.

Justin Devon Anderson appeared before Judge Michael Taylor with his attorney, Zachary Jex.

Anderson’s bail was set at $1 million in 2019 following the shooting death of 21-year-old Brookhaven resident Zariah Antel Newton. It was reduced Wednesday to $150,000.

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Newton and her boyfriend, Javian Richardson, had returned to their Mason Road home around 10:30 p.m. on July 21, 2019, after receiving security notifications that someone was inside the residence. When Newton entered the home, they were met with four intruders, two of whom shot at Newton as they fled the scene.

Newton was pronounced dead later that night at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

One of the four suspects, 19-year-old Jatavious Berry, of 900 Williams St., Brookhaven, was arrested that night. Another suspect, 18-year-old Adrian D. Smith, also of Brookhaven, was arrested Monday morning at Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Jackson as he attempted to flee the area.

A third suspect — Shawan F. Allen, 20, of Brookhaven — was located the following day, having barricaded himself in a trailer in the Beauregard community of Copiah County. Allen was killed in an exchange of gun fire with law enforcement.

The final suspect, 24-year-old Anderson of Natchez, surrendered to law enforcement in Natchez Monday night.

When the three suspects made their initial appearances in Justice Court, Smith received a $2M bond because he was attempting to flee. Anderson and Berry received $1M bonds each. They were bound over to the grand jury in August 2019.

Anderson was previously found not guilty in a 2017 shooting in Brookhaven that left one man injured and another dead. That trial concluded in May 2019, just two months prior to the burglary on Mason Road.

Anderson was acquitted by a Lincoln County jury for first-degree murder in the shooting death of Billy Ray Thomas Jr. after 40 minutes of deliberations in a three-day trial. Thomas was killed in November 2017 as he was leaving the Oasis Club on South First Street. The jury also came back with a verdict of not guilty for the aggravated assault charge against Anderson for the alleged shooting of Joshua Thomas, who was standing in front of his cousin as they exited the club that night.

Judge Taylor heard testimony from District Attorney investigator Damian Gatlin, as well as from the defendant’s mother, Sandra Anderson of Natchez.

Taylor ruled that the defendant had both negatives and positives concerning his request. From a negative aspect, the crime of which he stands accused is a violent one involving a firearm, he does not have a strong work history, a recent record of run-ins with law enforcement, and the sentence for murder being life imprisonment. In support of granting a lower bond for Anderson were his lack of federal convictions, his residency in a neighboring district where his family and attorney also live, and a good record of appearing in court while out on bond previously under the amount of $150,000 when accused of a similar crime.

“What is the purpose of bond?” Judge Taylor asked. “To protect the community and secure that the defendant appears in court.”

Taylor said the lowered bond met those standards, and granted it with stipulations — Anderson must wear an ankle monitor at his own expense; he must remain at home with his mother or at work in Adams County, or at court in Lincoln County; and he must continue to have no contact with the victims.

A trial date has not been confirmed for Anderson in the current case.