Gulfport parents prepare for trial of son's accused killer

Gulfport parents prepare for trial of son's accused killer

OXFORD, MS (WLOX) - This week in Oxford, the last of three defendants will stand trial for the murder of an Ole Miss student from Gulfport. Zach McClendon was a first-year graduate student at Ole Miss, studying for an MBA when he was shot and killed in December 2013.

Zach was preparing to tell his parents he had been accepted to medical school when he was killed. (Photo source: WLOX News)

Two of the men charged, Joseph Lyons and Derrick Boone, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Steven Wilbanks is now set to stand trial and the state is seeking the death penalty.

Steven Matthew Wilbanks was 22 when he was charged with capital murder in 2013. (Photo source: WMC)

Prosecutors say Wilbanks was the one who shot McClendon in the back of the head with a shotgun. All three were accused of stealing a vehicle, clothing, electronics, and textbooks at the time of the killing, making this a capital offense.

Zach McClendon's parents, Percy and Paula, will be in Oxford for the trial. Jury selection was underway Monday.

Percy and Paula McClendon say it's been a long, frustrating wait for justice.  (Photo source: WLOX)

The McClendons have been at every trial and sentencing, reliving the heartbreaking details of their son's death. One of the suspects, Derrick Boone, even turned to them at his trial in 2016 and pleaded for their forgiveness.

"He said if we could find it anywhere in our heart in the future to forgive him for what he'd done, he hopes that we could because he was terribly sorry," Percy McClendon told WLOX News Now shortly after the trial.

When asked if he felt the apology was sincere, the grieving parent said, "Yes, it was and I told him right then, 'You're forgiven.'"

The family's wait for justice has been a long one, but could finally come this week with the trial of the last defendant. WLOX News Now will be following the case all this week, giving updates on air and online.

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