Cold case trial could drag on to next year

Published 2:25 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It could be late next year before Robert Rupert goes to trial in two cold case killings that police believe were drug related.

Rupert pleaded not guilty to capital murder, murder and aggravated assault Friday in Clay County Circuit Court, said Clay County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Eddie Scott.

He’ll undergo a psychiatric evaluation before a trial date is set.

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Rupert, 39, is charged with the killings of Roosevelt Pernell III in December 2003 and Carlos Carr in 1994.

Police believe the slayings were the result of a dispute over drugs. Rupert is currently serving a 30-year sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for a previous sale of cocaine charge. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a lawyer for the murder charges.

Rupert is charged with capital murder and aggravated assault stemming from the alleged murder-for-hire shooting death of Pernell and the shooting of Pernell’s brother, Cedric, while they were working in concert with the sheriff’s department.

Rupert and possibly other gunmen used sniper-style firearms to shoot and kill Roosevelt Pernell and wound Cedric Pernell, according to authorities.

Police spent years investigating the case and thought the trail had gone cold until allegedly connecting Rupert to the crime and charging him in June.

Carr went missing July 24, 1994, and his body was discovered weeks later on Old Payne Field Road in Monroe County.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office’s Cold Case Unit, along with help from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, allegedly discovered evidence linking Rupert to the Carr death, as well.

Because Rupert is in prison, he is not eligible to be released on bond. He is being held in an undisclosed Mississippi Department of Corrections location.

Roosevelt Pernell III’s murder case is not the only unsolved death in the Pernell family. His father, Roosevelt Pernell Jr., died Feb. 22, 2007, while he was being held in the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on public drunkenness charges.

Although an autopsy revealed Roosevelt Pernell Jr. died of blunt force trauma to the head, it is unclear whether he received the injuries before or after his arrest.