JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Prosecutors in Mississippi have dismissed charges against a man in the fatal shooting of a former state lawmaker and earlier set fire to a building, saying they needed the more time to investigate.
The murder and arson charges against Billy Lamar Brooks were dismissed without prejudice, meaning a grand jury could consider new charges later, according to a document filed Friday in Yalobusha County. Circuit Court.
Former Republican Rep. Ashley Henley, 40, was shot to death in June 2021 outside the burning mobile home in a rural area where her sister-in-law, Kristina Michelle Jones, was found dead in December 2020.
“After reviewing the case for trial, State’s attorneys requested additional time to fully investigate and review this matter,” said the document signed by an assistant district attorney and Circuit Judge Smith. Murphy.
The document says it is “not possible to estimate the timeframe needed to complete this investigation,” but prosecutors may present the case to a grand jury at some point.
Brooks’ attorney, Bradley Peeples, declined to comment Wednesday on this latest development. He told The Associated Press that Brooks has been out on bond since last year.
Henley and other relatives argued that Yalobusha County authorities did little to investigate possible criminal charges in Jones’ death. Relatives placed a homemade sign at the mobile home site with photos of Jones under the phrase, “I was killed.”
Yalobusha County coroner Ronnie Stark said Henley was cutting grass at the site before he was killed.
Brooks, who lived near Jones, was charged in February 2022 with maliciously setting fire to the home of Jones and Terry Henley. Court records show that on June 30, 2022, a grand jury filed a new indictment against Brooks to add a manslaughter charge in the death of Ashley Henley.
Investigators said Henley’s body was found on June 13, 2021. The dismissed indictment accused Brooks of killing her on or the same day.
Ashley Henley served in the Mississippi House from 2016 to 2020 in a district in DeSoto County, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) north of where she was killed. She was a teacher before she was elected to office, and she often brought her son to the state Capitol during legislative sessions.
Henley sought a second term in November 2019 and lost by 14 votes to a Democrat. He challenged the election results, saying he believed he had found some voting irregularities. A bipartisan House committee held a public hearing on his challenge and unanimously rejected his request for new elections.
Photo: Former Mississippi Rep. Ashley Henley, R-Southhaven, speaks about teacher salaries in 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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