Murder charges dropped after police lose evidence

By Patrice Clark - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Terrance Coleman and Lederrick Brown are no longer charged with capital murder, and District Attorney Tony Lawrence is not happy about it. The two were charged in a 2006 double murder, but evidence crucial to the case has disappeared.

"You have witnesses who called 911 to say what they say. I don't have that recording," Lawrence said. "You have an audio recording of the defendant when he was in jail. I don't have it. I am not happy about it. I think this is a low point for me as District Attorney."

It's also a low point for Moss Point Police Chief Sheila Smallman. Her department is under fire for the sloppy way the evidence was handled. The chief said it's a mess she inherited.

"The past administration had no procedures or organization in place. We have been dealing with this since September of last year. We have tried to organize the evidence rooms," Smallman said.

Police have located some of the evidence in the Coleman and Brown case, but not enough to take the two suspects to trial. The evidence was taken out of the original box and placed into a paper with a case number on it. There were no names, no dates, no mention of the crime committed.

Moss Point Mayor Xavier Bishop calls the foul up "embarrassing."

"Justice can't be served because we were not in a position to do our job," Mayor Bishop said.

To hopefully ensure this won't happen again, the city plans to hire a evidence custodian to organize and manage all the evidence that comes into the Moss Point Police Department. City officials said it's a step in the right direction.

"I am taking immediate steps with my board to allocate funds for this position," Bishop said.

"This should alleviate majority of the problems we are having with evidence," Smallman said.

Lederrick Brown was released from the Jackson County Adult Detention Center. Terrance Coleman is still in jail on an unrelated charge.

District Attorney Lawrence said the only way to resurrect the case against Coleman and Brown is to get more evidence and for witnesses to come forward. Anyone with information that might help prosecutors rebuild their case is asked to call the District Attorney's office at (228) 769-3045.