April 23, 2009
STARKVILLE -- A Starkville woman was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections system for the shooting death of another woman last March in the Pecan Acres neighborhood.
Laquita Jaletha Murphy, 25, initially faced a murder charge for shooting and killing Quanesha Lindsey, 22, during a fight outside Lindsey''s mother''s house on March 18, 2008. Murphy Tuesday, however, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court and was sentenced by Judge Jim Kitchens to 15 years, plus five years of post-release supervision and a $1,000 fine.
The circumstances leading up to Lindsey''s death were revealed in January when Tommy Perkins, an acquaintance of both women, was on trial for one count of hindering prosecution and one count of handling a weapon by a convicted felon. The counts stemmed from Perkins'' involvement in the altercation between Murphy and Lindsey.
According to a videotaped statement Perkins'' made to police after the shooting, which was played in court during Perkins'' trial in January, he had been involved in a romantic relationship with Murphy. In the weeks prior to the shooting, he had begun a similar relationship with Lindsey. The women found out about each other and tensions flared, Perkins said; though, shortly before the shooting the pair had come to a temporary truce.
The tensions rekindled when Murphy showed up at Lindsey''s mother''s house in Pecan Acres on March 18, 2008. Perkins was sitting in his vehicle with Lindsey when Murphy drove up in a friend''s car, he said in the statement.
Murphy felt Perkins owed her $1,200; in his statement Perkins said he didn''t believe he owed her the money. Murphy began yelling at Perkins about the money and, in an effort to diffuse the situation, Perkins told Lindsey to go inside her mother''s house. He then told Murphy to leave and meet him somewhere else to talk about the debt.
As Lindsey got out of Perkins'' vehicle and was walking away, Murphy "kept running her mouth," Perkins said in his statement.
Before Perkins knew it, Lindsey walked around the front of both vehicles, opened the driver''s side door where Murphy sat and a fight ensued. Then he heard two gunshots.
Murphy had taken a .22-caliber pistol from her purse and shot Lindsey, he said. But Lindsey didn''t immediately fall to the ground; she continued to fight with Murphy and, a few seconds later, the second shot rang out.
Perkins left his vehicle after the second shot, he said in the tape, and tried to separate the women.
What happened next is what caused Perkins to face his own trial in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. He''s not sure in what order it happened, but at one point he picked Murphy''s gun up off the road and put it back inside the car she was driving, telling her to "Get out of here," he said in the tape.
At one point he also attended to the injured Lindsey, who eventually died from her gunshot wounds. But he''s not sure in what order the events took place.
Perkins still is facing counts of hindering prosecution and possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon for his actions after the shooting. Although his trial began in January, it was not completed because 16th Circuit Judge Lee Howard had a jury trial the following day. Perkins'' trial still has not resumed.
1. Wife, mother-in-law of missing New Hope man charged with murder COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY