GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Beaten to death and buried. George County Sheriff's Office investigators believe that's what happened the night Josh Vallum allegedly killed a 17-year-old transgender teen from Theodore, AL.
Vallum appeared in court Wednesday and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Now his case is being bound over to a George County grand jury. Investigators say they are working to determine if the homicide was a hate crime.
First-degree murder suspect Josh Vallum walked out of court without answering any of the questions reporters hurled at him about his alleged relationship and the brutal death of Mercedes Williamson. Vallum's attorney, David Futch, was also tight-lipped about the teen's murder.
"I can't say, but it will come out shortly," said Futch.
Investigator Capt. Ben Brown said Vallum is silent now, but that wasn't the case back in June when Williamson was found beaten to death and buried on the suspect's father's property in the Rocky Creek community.
"He told us he was the one who committed the murder," said Brown
Brown says Vallum and Williamson, who was born Christopher Wilkins, reportedly knew each other for more than nine months, but the extent of their connection is still a mystery.
"Every murder case is sad. It just has its own storyline," said Brown.
As the investigation continues, deputies are not ruling out the possibility of this murder being a hate crime.
"There have been a lot of rumors, and every time you hear a rumor, you have to investigate that and validate it or debunk it, whether it is true or false, and that is what we have been doing," said Brown. "There have been a lot of rumors about the victim being stabbed, the victim being burned, the victim being buried alive, so we have to go through all of that, and that's what is taking the most time."
The murder case could be presented to a grand jury as early as September. Futch said the increasing media attention was a major reason why Vallum waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Brown said Vallum is not a stranger to crime, and he's being held in state custody for violating his probation. His bond remains at $1 million.