By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Anna Catherine McCoy’s parents wept on the witness stand Tuesday as their daughter’s boyfriend faces charges for her death.
Jimmy “Cotton” McCoy and his ex-wife, Allison McCoy, were questioned by District Attorney Trent Kelly in the sixth day of the trial. They wrapped up the state’s depraved-heart murder case with such emotion that tears were shed throughout the 60-plus people in the Lee County Justice Center audience, including the family of defendant Thomas James Ward.
Ward also wiped his eyes as he heard from McCoy’s parents.
Anna McCoy was a 20-year-old Itawamba Community College scholarship soccer player when she died April 15, 2010, at Ward’s Saltillo home.
He insists it was an accident when his new semi-automatic, .40-caliber firearm discharged into her face and exited through the top of her head, killing her almost instantly.
Cotton McCoy, a retired Tupelo policeman, said he came to the hospital on an urgent request from Anna’s mother, and when he saw Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green, “I knew something bad had happened.”
“Anna’s gone,” Allison McCoy recalled Green telling her when she reached the hospital about midnight.
Before Allison McCoy testified, defense attorney Victor Fleitas objected to her testimony, saying she and her ex-husband offered little evidence, only emotion, which prejudiced his client.
Judge James L. Roberts Jr. disagreed and allowed her to take the stand, where she never was asked about a letter found on her daughter’s grave, suggested by a document prosecutors gave Fleitas about her likely testimony.
Tuesday was the first time either parent entered the courtroom because they’ve been waiting to be witnesses.
The 12-member jury with three alternates was sent home early because some defense witnesses were not scheduled to appear until today.
The state rested its case about 10:30 a.m., then Fleitas urged Roberts to throw out the depraved-heart murder charge and a lesser charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence, saying the state failed to present any evidence to prove Ward was extremely reckless with malice in his conduct toward McCoy the night she died.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Bowen said Ward’s account of what happened – that the gun discharged as McCoy handed it to him – “could not have happened.”
Roberts sided with the state, saying, “I do not believe Miss McCoy shot herself.”
The only defense witnesses so far – Ward’s friends Josh Van Dyke and Zach Hill – testified to seeing the couple numerous times and that McCoy was happy shortly before she died.
If convicted of depravedheart murder, Ward faces up to life in prison. Maximum sentence for the manslaughter conviction is 20 years.