JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - New Orleans man Eddie Pugh will not be put to death for his role in a crime spree that began in his hometown and ended in Jackson County. Jurors on Thursday found the 31-year-old guilty of Capital Murder, Arson and Aggravated Assault, and sentenced him to Life in Prison without parole.
Ironically, Pugh is already serving a life sentence for the federal charges associated with this case.
Pugh was on trial for his role in a double kidnapping and shooting in October 2008. Authorities charged Pugh, his girlfriend Torenda Whitmore and Barren Borden with kidnapping Rahman MoGilles and his college friend, Byron Kelsey McCoy.
Authorities said they then forced the men in an SUV and drove them to rural Jackson County. That's where McCoy was killed, and the car he was in set on fire. MoGilles was shot twice, but managed to escape and was able to give emotional testimony about the ordeal.
District Attorney Tony Lawrence said he believes justice was served for the victims in the case.
"I think this was a dangerous individual and that was one of the reasons why we asked the jury to consider the death penalty," Lawrence said. "This guy committed a horrible crime, and I think he needs to answer in Jackson County for what he did in Jackson County."
Pugh's father was visibly upset by the verdict and said he can't believe his son is going to jail for the rest of his life.
"I don't feel very good," Eddie Pugh, III said after the sentencing. "That is the best thing they had to work with, so I think the jury had to do what they had to do because they know it was not worth death penalty."
During the sentencing phase, several of Pugh's other loved ones begged the jury to let him live. Pugh's mom said her son was abused by his father and he would also follow the wrong crowds in school.
"My son was abused to the point I decided to leave his father. I always tried to do my best for him to help him along through his life."
Byron Kelsey McCoy's family also got a chance to express the pain they've felt since losing the young man to senseless violence.
"Kelsey was the comedian of the family. He was the center of attention," McCoy's aunt, Carolyn Whetstone said. "It was like when he left, it sucked a hole in our family. We are going to never be the same. It is like a pie without the sugar."
Throughout the trial, District Attorney Tony Lawrence begged the jury to find Pugh guilty of capital murder. Lawrence said Pugh was the mastermind of crime.
The state called 16 witnesses to prove its case to the jury. Shooting victim Rahman MoGilles even testified about the day of the murder. The D.A. also asked the jury to remember the dramatic 911 call from neighbors who said they saw black men shooting in the woods in Latimer.
Pugh's defense attorneys used the closing argument to question the integrity of MoGilles, and remind jurors MoGilles admitted he went to buy marijuana from Pugh that same day.
Though the defense called no witnesses in the trial, lawyers told the jury that the state couldn't back up its case.
Pugh has already been convicted on federal kidnapping charges, because the crime crossed state lines. His defense lawyers say they will appeal the decision.