Terry Hill, 44, of West Point, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for the role he played in the attack on two college students in the Cotton District in 2016.
Hours after a jury handed down a guilty verdict Thursday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court, Judge Lee Coleman sentenced Hill to a combined 105 years for robbery, two counts of kidnapping and sexual battery.
As bailiffs led him out of the courtroom, Hill said loudly, “I just want to tell the world I’m innocent.”
In response, the sexual battery victim’s father stood to his feet and yelled across the room: “Go do your 105!”
Hill was sentenced to 15 years for the robbery and 30 years each for the other charges. The sentences will run consecutively.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour following two days of testimony. One witness was the sexual battery victim, who was a junior at Mississippi State University in May 2016 when Hill and his co-defendant, Jerry Talley, Jr. of McCool, were arrested. She told the jury the two suspects entered her home in the Cotton District and robbed fellow MSU student Blake Hugey. Then she said the suspects raped her before forcing both victims into the home’s bathroom.
Hugey also testified to those events.
In closing statements, District Attorney Scott Colom and Assistant District Attorney Trina Davidson-Brooks repeatedly referred to the victims’ experiences as “worse than a nightmare.”
Colom praised the courage of the victims for testifying, particularly the woman who openly sobbed on the stand Tuesday when she pointed to Hill and declared he was the man who assaulted her.
“What I saw brought me to tears,” Colom said. “… I have never seen anyone have such courage.”
But defense attorney Stephanie Mallette, who twice objected during Colom’s closing statement, argued the case was not about the victims’ courage and that the jury had to look at the facts.
“This is a difficult case,” she said. “It does evoke passion. It does evoke sympathy. You have to put that aside.”
Mallette pointed out that the sexual battery victim had taken Xanax, alcohol and cocaine all in the hours proceeding the attack and that she admitted to not having all the same memories Hugey had.
Mallette also said the sexual assault kit entered into evidence had not been refrigerated when it was stored either at the police department or at the lab where the DNA from the kit was analyzed, despite the fact instructions to refrigerate it were printed on the bag where it was kept.
But Davidson-Brooks pointed out that during testimony, DNA analyst Kathryn Rodgers said it wasn’t necessary to refrigerate the samples. She also said the sexual battery victim had no problem remembering the details of the attack, such as who the attackers were and what they said to her.
State prosecutors were pleased with the trial’s result.
“With the help of Starkville Police Department and the courage of the victims, we were able to bring Mr. Hill to justice in a little over a year,” Colom said after the verdict.
Mallette declined to comment as long as she is still filing motions for Hill’s case.
On Tuesday, Mallette asked the judge to be removed from the case because she said Hill threatened her multiple times, but the motion was denied. It is not known if she will remain as Hill’s counsel.