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Clay County murder cases continued


Dispatch Staff



The case of Robert Rupert, which was scheduled to be heard during the April term of Clay County Circuit Court has been continued again until the July term, according to Clay County Circuit Court documents. 


Rupert, who has been charged with murder/capital murder and aggravated assault has had his case continued until the next term, which meets in July. 


Court documents said the case is being moved because of an ongoing investigation. Assistant District Attorney Rhonda Hayes-Ellis is the prosecuting attorney. 


Clay County Sheriff''s Department investigators in June arrested 38-year-old Robert Rupert of West Point on one count of capital murder in connection with the Dec. 4, 2003, shooting death of Starkville resident Roosevelt Pernell III. 


Officers believe Rupert was involved in the 2003 murder-for-hire of Pernell and the attempted murder of Pernell''s brother, Cedric. According to police reports, Rupert and possibly other gunmen used sniper-style firearms to shoot and kill Roosevelt Pernell and wound Cedric Pernell. Authorities believe the killing was drug-related. 


The arrest resulted from a more than three-month investigation that began after Clay County Sheriff Laddie Huffman formed a Cold Case Unit at the sheriff''s department. The unit was formed after the Clay County Board of Supervisors allowed Huffman to enter partial retirement and use part of his salary to fund the unsolved murders unit. 


Roosevelt Pernell III''s murder case is not the only unsolved death in the Pernell family. Roosevelt Pernell III''s father, Roosevelt Pernell Jr., died Feb. 22, 2007 while he was being held in the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on public drunkenness charges.  


LCADC officers discovered Roosevelt Pernell Jr. unresponsive in his jail cell a few hours after he was arrested by the Columbus Police Department on the charges. 


Although an autopsy revealed Roosevelt Pernell Jr. died of blunt force trauma to the head. 




Harris murder case 


The Steven Jessie Harris murder case has also been continued until the July term. Harris has been charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer for killing his father, 72-year-old Malachi Randle. 


Police say Harris went on a violent crime spree in October 2005 that ended in a gunfight with West Point police. Harris was eventually taken down by police who shot him in the shoulder, but not before he''d wounded five people, including three officers.  


Randle, was later found dead in the home the two shared on 752 Mayhew St. in West Point. West Point Police Capt. Danny McCaskill said Randle appeared to have been shot once in the torso, but the home showed no signs of a struggle.  


Police say Harris walked into the parking lot of the Sonic Drive-In on Highway 45 Alternate in West Point carrying a .22-caliber rifle. He shot at cars driving by on the highway, wounding one person, then attempted to car-jack several vehicles parked at Sonic. Harris allegedly stabbed 20-year-old Mississippi State student Joshua Finderburg during a failed car-jacking, then went after West Point resident Kevin Collins, ordering him out of his vehicle but forcing a passenger, Monica Chandler, to stay inside. Harris sped from the parking lot, swerving down Highway 45 Alternate with police, who had begun converging on the scene, in pursuit.  


Harris lost control of the car near the Mitchell Buick dealership. He jumped out of the wrecked Honda and ran across Highway 45 Alternate, exchanging gunfire with officers, wounding three.  


Harris allegedly tried to take another hostage, 24-year-old Shalise Ewing, who had pulled off the highway because she saw police vehicles. Harris continued to fire at officers from the driver''s seat of Ewing''s car until he was shot in the left side and shoulder.  


After subduing Harris , officers found a straight razor and pocket knife in addition to the .22-caliber rifle. They later discovered a snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver inside Ewing''s car, which they say also belonged to Harris . McCaskill believes autopsy results will reveal one of the guns was used to kill Randle. 


The order of continuance was signed by 16th District Circuit Court Judge James L. Kitchens because the defense attorney is out of the state, and will not be back until the end of the April term, according to court records. 


Cases ranging from cocaine possession charges to statutory rape were also continued until July. 






Sentences were handed down during the April term, including the case of Christopher Smith. Smith was charged with felony escape, and was sentenced by Kitchens to one year to serve with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and four years of probation. 


The defendant is also ordered by the court to enter drug and alcohol counseling if the MDOC determines it is necessary. 


Michael White, who was charged with possession of methamphetamines, was sentenced by Kitchens to serve 10 years with the MDOC, pay a $5,000 fine and be placed on five years of probation. The defendant is also ordered to obtain his GED and obtain in-patient or outpatient drug and alcohol counseling. 


Jessica Clark, who was charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, was sentenced by Kitchens to 20 years with the MDOC, and placed in two years of house arrest and five years of supervised probation. 





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