By Adam Armour
Itawamba County Times
Matthew Graham, charged in connection with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his former father-in-law, has pleaded guilty to his charges.
On Tuesday, Graham, 43, of 953 John Rankin Highway, entered an Alford plea in Itawamba County Circuit Court to the principal charges of the burglary of a dwelling. An Alford plea is a form of guilty plea in which the defendant admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to likely convince a judge or jury of his or her guilt, but does not actually admit to having committed the accused crime.
Judge Paul Funderburk sentenced Graham to 25 years, with 17 suspended and eight to be served. This last-minute plea came on the eve of Graham’s scheduled trial date.
Graham is currently being held in Itawamba County Jail awaiting transportation to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.
In addition to his prison sentence, Graham was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution — $200,000 in cash and the rest in seized assets.
Graham and three others are charged with the July break-in at 925 Saddle Club Road in Golden, home of Wayne Cleveland, where they allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his safe. The exact amount has never been released.
Two others have been charged in connection with the crime: Danny Grimes and Junior Hood. The three of them are still awaiting their appearance in court.
Graham was, at one time, also under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation for charges of co-conspiring to have Cleveland killed. Following his initial arrest and release on bond, Graham allegedly tried to pay $20,000 to have Cleveland killed. Money reportedly exchanged hands, leading to the revocation of Graham’s bond and the arrest of a second individual, Stephen Shackleford in Tishomingo County. According to Graham’s attorney, Jamie Franks, those charges have since been downgraded to witness tampering.