February 21, 2018 11:17:44 AM
A Columbus murder defendant will spend the next 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder.
Billy Lee Kennedy, 33, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge the same day his trial for first-degree murder was due to begin. Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Lee Howard sentenced him to the maximum term in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the second-degree offense.
Kennedy was indicted in 2016 for the Feb. 28, 2015, shooting death of his distant cousin, 41-year-old Carl Miller Jr.
Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Clemons said Kennedy's sentence was justified.
"I am glad that the family did not have to sit through the testimony about the gruesome details of their loved one's murder," she said.
Kennedy's attorney, Steve Wallace of Columbus, was not immediately available for comment.
Clemons said in court Columbus police found Miller sitting in the passenger's seat of a SUV parked in front of Kennedy's home. He had shotgun wounds to his face and neck, she said.
At the scene, Kennedy told investigators Miller was the victim of a drive-by shooting. Kennedy then went upstairs and changed out of his clothes, which investigators later found blood stains on, Clemons said. Investigators also found Kennedy's fingerprint on the murder weapon.
Kennedy was arrested several weeks after his brother, Arthur Kennedy, 36, was arrested for a separate murder outside a club. Family members told the court Miller had been in town trying to support the Kennedy family after the first arrest when he was killed.
Miller's brothers, Jerry Lee Miller of California and Robert Miller, both testified in court during the sentencing hearing.
"(My family went through) a lot of sleepless nights," said Jerry Lee, who had been on the phone with both Carl Miller and Billy Lee Kennedy shortly before the shooting. "...It really hurt for me to just get off the phone with my brother and his life get taken.
"I just want to know what made him do it," he added.
Robert Miller said he was angry Billy Lee Kennedy had lied to the police during the investigation into Carl Miller's death. He said he would never speak to anyone on that side of the family again.
"My brother will never get to see his grandkids," Robert Miller said. "...(The sentence doesn't) bring my brother back. People like him should never ever touch the street again."
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