JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The mother an Atlanta man killed in Jackson County was the first to take the stand in the capital murder trial of Eddie Pugh. Pugh is accused of shooting Rahman MoGilles and Byron Kelsey McCoy in 2008. MoGilles survived, but McCoy did not, and his body was left inside a burning SUV in a wooded area of the Latimer community.
Barbara McCoy testified she didn't want her son to go to New Orleans, but he couldn't find a job in Atlanta. His friend MoGilles offered work at his family's New Orleans chicken business.
McCoy said she told her son, "Do what your heart leads you to do."
A few days before his death, McCoy said her son told her he wasn't taking the job and was coming home. The next call she received was from a sheriff's deputy telling her Byron was dead.
In opening arguments, District Attorney Tony Lawrence told the jury the state would show that Pugh and another man, Barron Borden, beat up McCoy and MoGilles, bound them with telephone cord, put them in the back of a SUV, and drove to Mississippi where both men were shot and the SUV set on fire.
Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade told the jury Pugh was linked to all the crimes.
"He's guilty of arson, aggravated assault and capital murder," Wade said.
Pugh's defense attorney maintains his client is not guilty, and not even Rahman MoGilles can say Pugh kidnapped or shot anyone.
"MoGilles never saw Pugh hit him, have a gun or tie him up," defense attorney Richard Conant told the jury.
The prosecution turned to the testimony of a high school student who was in the area the day of the shooting. Elliott Jones testified he was on his way to cross country practice when he saw "three black men standing near a SUV." Jones said there was a struggle and he saw one of the men, wearing a white t-shirt, shoot at another man running into the woods.
Jones told the court he went home and called 911.
Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Leon Allen responded to the 911 call. When he arrived, he testified he found the burning SUV and saw a man inside.
Allen said his investigation took him down the road a bit near the bridge on Old Biloxi Road, where he saw a man in the creek up to his waist in water. Allen testified that man was Pugh.
Allen said Pugh had "missing skin and blisters from a burn." The deputy also said when he arrested Pugh, he took shoes and a white t-shirt from him.
Before testimony began, Pugh's lawyer asked the judge to throw out some key evidence in the case, claiming police coerced Pugh into showing them where the cell phones, keys to the car used in the crime, and the murder weapon itself were discarded at the crime scene.
Prosecutors argued that so many teams of officers and dogs were on the scene already, they would have eventually found the evidence in the woods anyway.
The judge agreed with the prosecution and allowed the phones, the keys and the weapon to remain in evidence.
Pugh is already facing life in prison. Last year, he was convicted on the federal charges associated with this same case. If convicted on the state's capital murder charge, Pugh could face the death penalty.