By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – An Oxford man was found guilty of capital murder in the July 2009 shooting deaths of a father and son and aggravated assault in the shooting of their wife and mother.
Jurors reached the guilty verdicts against Caleb Carrothers Thursday evening after less than two hours’ deliberation.
Frank Clark and his son Taylor were killed, and Tonya Clark, their wife and mother, respectively, was shot twice in the neck. The theft of money and a car made the killings capital murder.
After the verdict, Carrothers family spokesman Marsha McEwen said, “They need to pray for both families. That’s our only statement.”
The jury, chosen from Lee County because of pretrial publicity in Lafayette County, will begin the sentencing phase of the trial this morning. The options are the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Testimony on Thursday prior to jury deliberations came from several witnesses who encountered Carrothers after the crime. Prosecution witness Frederick Holmes said the defendant came to him two days after the killings.
“He looked shocked and had a bunch of Band-Aids everywhere,” Holmes said. “He’s like, ‘Man, I just killed these white folks.’”
Holmes, an inmate facing several felony charges, offered several details that meshed with other witnesses’ testimony.
Judge Andrew Howorth rejected testimony from a psychology professor who would have testified for the defense about eyewitness identification, noting that the field had not been recognized as a science in Mississippi courts.
Defense witness Tim Douglas of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation confirmed his understanding that Josh Clark, a survivor of the attack and the first person to positively ID Carrothers, has some memory loss from an auto accident.
Howorth admitted being conflicted about another defense witness but allowed Ralson Jannice, who is serving a felony sentence, to contradict Holmes’ earlier testimony.
“He told me he was in jail in another case and he was going to lie on Mr. Carrothers to get out of jail,” Jannice said.
One of the most compelling evidences in the trial may have been Carrothers’ interview with investigators that was played Wednesday. In it, he seemed to contradict himself and key pieces of circumstantial evidence.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore thanked the law enforcement personnel in the case.
“They did a great job investigating this case and giving us the necessary proof to get what we have today,” he said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.