Detective Calls Not Guilty Verdict In Capital Murder Case "A Difficult Pill To Swallow" - - The News for South Mississippi

Detective Calls Not Guilty Verdict In Capital Murder Case "A Difficult Pill To Swallow"

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- For five-and-a-half years, Gulfport police thought they had their man. They were sure their evidence proved Marcus Antonio Jones had raped and stabbed a 58-year-old woman. But Wednesday, during the middle of the suspect's capital murder trial, a circuit court judge realized the evidence was insufficient. So he ordered a directed verdict. And suddenly Jones was a free man.

So who did kill Phyllis White? Gulfport detectives must try and answer that question all over again.

Detectives have always thought two people were inside Mrs. White's home when she died. So, they'll pour over the evidence again, and hope they find a clue that leads them to the right suspect.

A lot has changed on East Tandy Drive since December 17, 2002. But just like that horrifying day five and a half years ago, when police cars swarmed through the community, a murder mystery haunts the Pine Hills subdivision. Gulfport police thought they had the right man in custody. But after the suspect's capital murder trial, lead detective Craig Peterson can no longer say who walked into the Tandy Drive house in 2002 and killed Phyllis White.

"I guess the word is disappointment," the detective said.

Lt. Peterson and his staff thought they had enough evidence to link and convict Marcus Antonio Jones for this capital murder. However, testimony introduced in court this week indicated the DNA collected in 2002 couldn't specifically put the defendant inside Mrs. White's home. Circuit Court Judge Jerry Terry determined the state had "insufficient evidence." So he ordered Jones be set free.

Peterson wasn't in the courtroom when the directed verdict was announced.

"It's a difficult pill to swallow," Peterson said.

Suddenly, Gulfport detectives are right back at square one. Their plan is to review their evidence file, and begin a new search for Phyllis White's killer, or killers.

"There's two unknown donors of DNA involved in this case," Peterson said. "And we don't know who those people are."

The one person who's no longer a suspect is the original defendant. The detective said Wednesday's directed verdict meant Marcus Antonio Jones couldn't be retried for Mrs. White's murder.

By Brad Kessie

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