Joshua Murry was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after a Lowndes County jury found him guilty of murdering Starkville resident Jarrell Ward in 2018.
The jury handed down the verdict after only a few minutes of deliberation, a day after Murry testified that the last time he saw Ward, on July 26, 2018, he dropped him off at the Donut Factory on Highway 45 in Columbus to meet a woman with a red Kia — the same story he told Ward’s family and investigators after Ward was reported missing the next day.
Ward’s body was discovered on Aug. 1, 2018, in a wooded area off Sand Road in Lowndes County, and law enforcement arrested Murry for murder the same day.
“I’m pleased with the hard work of law enforcement in the case,” District Attorney Scott Colom said after the trial. “… They did everything in their power to figure out what was going on. Because of the steps they took, we were able to collect enough evidence to prove that Josh Murry killed Jarrell Ward.”
Murry’s trial began last week, when multiple witnesses testified that Murry had lost either $1,300 or $1,700 to Ward during a party in Starkville at which the two had been gambling on video games. Murry told Ward he would have to go back to his Columbus home to collect the money, and Ward decided to ride with him.
Throughout the trial, Colom and Assistant District Attorney Ben Rush called on law enforcement and forensic experts who testified to finding bullet holes and blood in Murry’s vehicle which matched Ward’s blood; to finding a T-shirt next to Ward’s body that matched the T-shirt witnesses and video surveillance showed Murry had been wearing while he gambled with Ward; to finding glass next to Ward’s body that matched glass from Murry’s vehicle; and to discovering data from Murry’s cell phone that put Murry in the area where Ward’s body was discovered and never near the Donut Factory.
Moreover, prosecutors argued, there had never been any evidence that Murry and Ward were anywhere near the Donut Factory, despite law enforcement pulling video surveillance from the business.
In closing statements, Colom argued that to find Murry not guilty, the jury would have to believe it was a coincidence that whoever killed Ward was wearing the same shirt as Murry and had the same type of glass in his vehicle.
“He had to be the unluckiest man in the world for that to be true,” Colom said. “And the one who killed him would have to be the luckiest person in the world.”
However, Murry stuck to his story, and defense attorney Alton Earl Peterson, of Jackson, continued to argue there was never any sign of animosity between Ward and Murry, that there hadn’t been enough blood in the vehicle by the time law enforcement searched it to suggest a murder had taken place and that there were inconsistencies to some witness testimony, such as an investigator giving the wrong date that he had requested video surveillance footage.
“The truth of the matter is that we really don’t know what happened to Jarrell Ward,” he told the jury during opening statements.
Peterson did not respond to a message from The Dispatch by press time.
Murry also faced a charge of conspiracy after he and his girlfriend, Shanice Nottage, allegedly attempted to break him out of Lowndes County Adult Detention Center a few days after his arrest by having Nottage impersonate a corrections officer. However, Colom said he dropped the conspiracy charge Tuesday after Murry was sentenced to life in prison.