February 20, 2019 11:07:59 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
A Columbus man charged with second-degree murder in 2016 has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
In Lowndes County Circuit Court Tuesday, Barry Boozer, 43, admitted to stabbing Robert Elliott Thomas to death at America's Best Value Inn on Highway 45 in November 2016. Boozer was arrested for Thomas' death and later indicted for second-degree murder.
Boozer's attorney, William Starks of Columbus, said while he had a defense for trial in mind, Boozer ultimately decided to agree to a plea deal, which involved admitting to the lesser included charge of manslaughter and having two other drug-related charges dismissed based on the plea.
Boozer was sentenced to 20 years in Mississippi Department of Corrections with eight years to serve and 12 suspended. He will also pay a $750 fine.
"It was a very difficult case that involved two young men that actually were friends," Starks said. "Unfortunately the situation turned into one of them being killed."
Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Clemons told the judge Thomas visited Boozer and his wife in their hotel room at America's Best Value Inn the night of his death. There Thomas and Boozer became involved in an altercation and Boozer stabbed Thomas with a pocket knife. Clemons said Thomas left the room, only to return a few minutes later bleeding to death. The individuals in the room called 911 and tried to perform CPR.
Clemons added Boozer and his wife later pawned the pocket knife used in the altercation.
Had the case gone to trial, Clemons told The Dispatch she likely would have used an "imperfect self-defense argument," meaning Boozer may have been in fear of his life when he stabbed Thomas, but had no real reason to be given the circumstances. She added that while there was surveillance footage of the hallway outside the Boozers' hotel room where the stabbing took place, there was only one witness who could have testified in the room, and he was in the bathroom when the actual altercation took place.
Clemons believes the incident was drug-related.
"The victim's family wanted justice for Elliott," she said. "And while I can never promise them that the defendant will tell them exactly what happened, I hope they can find peace with this resolution. And I'm grateful that Mr. Boozer took responsibility for killing him."
Starks said that though Boozer had been told not to have contact with Thomas' family, Boozer wanted to pass his condolences to them.
"I do want the family to know that Mr. Boozer is certainly remorseful," he said.
1. Report: City out of cash by October COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY