George Co. man pleads guilty to second degree murder

Clifford Preston Byrd (Photo source: George County Sheriff's Department)
Clifford Preston Byrd (Photo source: George County Sheriff's Department)

GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A South Mississippi man pleaded guilty to second degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault on Thursday.

According to District Attorney Tony Lawrence, Clifford Preston Byrd, 28, admitted to gunning down Nathan Mitchell (Mitch) White and shooting at his brother, Ryan White, and their father, Jerald Cochran, in their George County home.

Lawrence said investigators could not find a motive for the Dec. 16, 2012, shooting, but Byrd's blood alcohol content was a staggering 0.27. Authorities said Byrd was so intoxicated he was unable to remember the details of the shooting during the initial investigation and plea hearing.

Circuit Judge Kathy Jackson sentenced Byrd to 30 years behind bars without the possibility of parole followed by 10 years of probation. Byrd must also pay a $2,000 fine.

"This is yet another sad example of a young man's life being taken too early because of an act of senseless violence," said Lawrence. "This case shows how the mixture of guns and alcohol can have a devastating effect on people's lives."

Several members of the victim's family were in the courtroom as the sentence was handed down. Sharron Elmore, Mitch's mother, prepared a statement that was read to the court:

Nearly two years have passed since the loss of my beautiful son. Yet every morning when I wake, I relive that horrific phone call that changed my life, my family, my world. My Mitch was a wonderful child, a free spirited, witty, and generous being, a God given blessing stripped from me. It is true that we as parents expect to leave this earth before our children. I understand why, it is because our hearts never heal. We are left with a constant void, an emptiness, and a disconnect. Even after the anger, bitterness and blame subside, the emotional scars linger on. So my family and I are left to pick up the pieces and force a smile while hiding behind the pain and lingering sorrow.

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