State seeks death penalty for Maben murders


Tim Pratt



STARKVILLE -- A Maben man accused of brutally killing his wife and another woman last summer now faces a possible death sentence in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. 




Assistant District Attorney Frank Clark on Thursday said the state plans to seek the death penalty in its case against 27-year-old Leon "Moses" McBride. 




McBride is charged with two counts of capital murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of burglary. The capital murder counts make McBride eligible for the death penalty. 




McBride stood before Judge Jim Kitchens Thursday and pleaded not guilty to all four counts. Kitchens then ordered a mental health evaluation for McBride, who was returned to custody immediately after the hearing. 




"The main reason I want (McBride) evaluated is because this is a death-eligible crime, and the state has indicated at this point in time that they intend to seek the death penalty, and I want to test him for mental retardation so I''ll know whether that is an option," Kitchens said. 




McBride''s trial is scheduled for the April Circuit Court session but most likely won''t be heard until a later date due to the amount of preparation needed for a capital murder case, Kitchens said. 




The indictment against McBride stems from an incident the night of June 15, 2008, when the Oktibbeha County Sheriff''s Department responded to reports of shots fired in a mobile home at 2819 Harrell Road, which is roughly 15 miles west of downtown Starkville. 




When police arrived, they found Leon McBride''s wife, Erica Denise McBride, 28, and Stephanie Nicole Bedford, 20, dead at the scene. Erica McBride had a gunshot wound to her upper body, seven stab wounds to the stomach and her throat had been cut twice, Sheriff''s Department Chief Deputy George Carrithers said at the time. She was found in a wooded area near the trailer. 




Bedford, who lived at the home, died of a gunshot wound to the upper body and was found in a bedroom. Prentiss Cork, 26, who also lived at the home, was transported to Oktibbeha County Hospital, where he was treated and released for a gunshot wound to the leg, Carrithers said. 




Officers arrested Leon McBride at his Maben home nearly two hours after the attack with a pocketknife and a .357 Magnum handgun, which police believe he used in the crimes. 




Police say nine people, including six children, were in the home when Leon McBride showed up angry at his wife and forced his way through the front door. Leon McBride then went to a bedroom where his wife was located and fired at least one shot, Carrithers said. 




The suspect then exited the bedroom and walked to the other end of the mobile home, where police say he shot Bedford and Cork. Erica McBride, meanwhile, fled the home on foot, but Leon McBride found her nearby, then stabbed her repeatedly with the pocketknife and cut her throat, Carrithers said. 




Attorney Pearson Liddell is representing Leon McBride, though on Thursday Liddell said he''s "looking into" obtaining assistance from other area lawyers.




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