Ole Miss student murder case before Miss. Appeals Court

Published 10:57 pm Monday, July 3, 2006

Demetrius Smith, convicted of abducting a University of Mississippi student from her Oxford apartment and drowning her in Sardis Lake, will have his appeal heard this term by the state Court of Appeals.

The case is among dozens the Appeals Court will hear during the July-September term. The court will not hear oral arguments in the cases. They will instead rely on attorneys’ briefs to make their decision.

Smith, of Lambert, was convicted in 2005 in Panola County of capital murder in the death of 19-year-old Carnesha Nelson. He was sentenced to life without parole.

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Defense attorneys had claimed prosecutors failed to establish a link between the crime and a knife found in the car driven by Smith. They also said the prosecution did not prove the kidnapping charge.

Prosecutors said kidnapping was proven through the tape found in Nelson’s bedroom with Smith’s fingerprints on it and the fact that Nelson’s hands were still bound when she was found in the upper region of Sardis Lake.

Prosecutors said Smith drowned Nelson some time after she disappeared from her home at The Cove Apartments and Racquet Club in Oxford on May 27, 2004.

Two fishermen discovered Nelson’s body May 29 in the Upper Lake area of Sardis Lake on what would have been her 20th birthday. An autopsy listed the cause of death as a freshwater drowning.

Ole Miss officials said Smith was employed as a part-time dormitory desk receptionist at five different campus dorms, including Crosby Hall, where Nelson once lived.

The Appeals Court also will hear the appeal of Marvin Sinatra Sanders, a Clarksdale man convicted in 2004 of capital murder shooting deaths of two people at a small grocery store in the Roundaway community.

Sanders also was convicted of aggravated assault in the wounding of the store’s owner.

Sanders was sentenced to two life terms on the murder counts plus 20 years for aggravated assault.

Prosecutors said Sanders killed Brandon Henry Lott, 19 of the Roundaway community, and Johnny Scott, 37, of Alligator. The murders occurred Oct. 4, 2003, at V’s Grocery. Prosecutors said the two men were killed after Sanders lost money in a dice game at the store.

Store’s owner Vester Triplett was shot three times during the incident but survived.

Among other cases before the Appeals Court:

— Jermaine Ramsey’s appeal of his 2004 conviction and life sentence for his role in the shooting death of 23-year-old William Gill. Ramsey was sentenced to life in prison for capital murder and 15 years for robbery. The sentences were to be served at the same time.

Lauderdale County prosecutors said Gill’s body was found on March 15, 2003, at the intersection of Mississippi 496 and 19 South. Gill had multiple gunshot wounds fired by a small-caliber handgun, authorities said.

— Curtis Bennett’s appeal his 2004 murder conviction and life sentence for killing his estranged wife.

Harrison County prosecutors said Bennett shot his wife, Connie, in the back three times Oct. 20, 2003, at the D’Iberville bank where she worked.

According to court documents, Bennett claimed he didn’t remember killing her, saying his mind went blank after his wife allegedly told him via cell phone that she was interested in someone else.

— Geraldine Allen’s appeal of her 2005 conviction in George County for child exploitation. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison with 10 years to serve followed by five years of post-release supervision.

According to the court record, the victim, who was shown on a videotape engaging in sexually explicit conduct, identified Allen as the person who had made the video. The victim testified that the video was made while she was visiting the Allen home when she was 13 years old.

— Kenny Hidgon’s appeal of his 10-year sentence for fondling a 6-year-old girl. Higdon was sentenced in DeSoto County in 2005 to 15 years in prison with 10 years to serve followed by five years of post-release supervision.

Prosecutors said the fondling took place between Nov. 29, 2002, and Jan. 1, 2003. They said Higdon knew the child’s mother and was baby-sitting the girl at the time the incident took place.

— Brett Jones’ appeal of his 2005 conviction in Lee County for the stabbing death of his grandfather. Jones was 15 when he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2004 slaying of Bertis Jones.

Prosecutors said Bertis Jones died on Aug. 9, 2004, at his home in Shannon after being stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.

Defense attorneys had argued that the teen acted in self-defense.

Prosecutors said Brett Jones confessed to killing his grandfather.