September 23, 2013 8:48:08 AM
PURVIS -- A pair of escaped inmates who killed a 95-year-old woman have been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Lamar County Circuit Court Judge Tony Mozingo sentenced 23-year-old James Robert Martin and 27-year-old David Edward Bass Friday after the two pleaded guilty to capital murder in the 2012 death of Ada Smith.
Smith was found dead Oct. 21 in her home near Purvis, bound to a chair with orange shoestrings and stabbed in the throat.
"You both are cowards and you do not deserve the (sentence) you will receive," Laura Taylor, one of Smith's 21 grandchildren, said in court Friday. "Neither of you are men because no man would take the life of an old lady, tying her up with shoestring and then stabbing her in the neck."
Investigators said the men stabbed Smith in part because she "wouldn't stop talking about Jesus."
"She was trying to talk to you about the Lord," Mozingo said in part.
Prosecutors had threatened to seek the death penalty in a trial that had been set for Dec. 9 before the men agreed to plead guilty. The pair had also been charged with burglary and intent to commit burglary.
Both suspects walked off the Mississippi Department of Corrections' Forrest County Community Work Center the day before they killed Smith, hiding out in another house overnight before breaking into Smith's home. Martin had been a five-year sentence for a grand larceny conviction from Monroe County. Bass was serving a seven-year sentence for five burglary convictions from Lee County.
The men stole Smith's car, which authorities later found stashed in a swampy area near Slidell, La. U.S. Marshalls arrested both men at a bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.