Capital murder suspect Robert Leon Jackson, left, on his way to court Monday to face capital murder charges.
Capital murder suspect Robert Leon Jackson, left, on his way to court Monday to face capital murder charges.

Megan Staats recently accompanied an autistic family friend to his senior prom. Two strangers from Alabama sat with Jeremy Apperson’s 11-year-old son while his mother tended to his father’s bullet-ridden body by the gasoline pumps.

Staats, 26, and Apperson, 33, both died and another man was injured in a horrific armed robbery scene that played out on Saturday evening at the CEFCO convenience store, 1534 Mississippi 16 west, next to McDonald's where Staats was a cashier and the Appersons had stopped for gas and drinks.

A man out of prison on parole for an attempted armed robbery in Jackson nearly a decade ago allegedly waved a gun in Apperson’s wife’s face in the driver’s seat as he pumped gasoline.

Robert Leon Jackson, 30, of 224 Manship St., Jackson, was apprehended by police five minutes after the first 911 call as he fled on foot. He was arraigned on two counts of capital murder on Monday and denied bond.

Jackson was also charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of armed robbery.

Jackson suffered a gunshot wound and was ultimately transported to University Medical Center in Jackson until he was released Monday.

The suspect had apparently shot Staats before going out to the gas pumps and confronting the Appersons and others.

“This precious girl in the picture is not his girlfriend…, she was a precious and kind-hearted person that wanted to make sure he had a date to his prom!” a woman posted on Facebook about the autistic teen and Staats’ kind act accompanying the family friend to the prom at Neshoba Central.

“This precious girl went to his prom with him and as you can see it made his day! Thank you Megan Staats for being such a great friend to Kurt! He will always remember his prom! You will be missed on earth by many! RIP sweet girl!!”

Apperson’s wife Samantha posted on Sunday that she’d “like to take a minute to publicly thank these ladies Shanda Mae and Chasity Mae from Livingston, Ala.”

“These two women came straight to me while I was trying to go between my husband on the ground and our son who had just witnessed his father being murdered, after a strange man pulled a gun on his Mother,” Samantha Apperson wrote.

“Shanda and Chasity told me to be with Jeremy and they had Hunter. They stood with him while he sat in the back seat and talked with him about his love for basketball, school, and telling him to put this in Jesus’ hands.”

She continued: “These two women didn’t know me from Adam, they were here to have a good time at the casino but they chose to stay with my child and do their best to keep his mind distracted while I dealt with everything else. If you know either of these ladies, you probably already know they are angels.”

Jeremy Apperson was a transport fuel truck driver for Philadelphia-based Prince Oil Co., Inc., and the company posted this statement on their Facebook page on Sunday:

“The Prince Oil family mourns the loss of Mr. Jeremy Apperson. He was a quiet man that professionally handled his role of transporting fuel across the region. He was a peer, friend, father, and husband. He worked hard and was a man that lived our motto ‘whatever it takes.’

“Please pray for his beautiful family.

As a community, we will rally around his sweet wife and three children. We will petition our Lord to give them the peace only He can give as they pass through this valley.”

Apperson was described as the type of guy who would basically give you the shirt off of his back, according to friends and co-workers.

Jason Blair, who has known Apperson since the 8th grade, said that he didn’t know where to start in describing him.

“There are so many positive things to say about him,” Blair said. “In school, he was a model student. Teachers loved him. He got good grades, everyone got along with him.”

In a Facebook post on Saturday night, Samantha Apperson explained that their girls had gone to a birthday party and that she and Jeremy and their son went for drinks and gasoline at the convenience store.

“While Jeremy was pumping gas a man walked up to my driver window and pointed a handgun at my face,” she said.

“Jeremy saw and pulled his concealed pistol hitting the man once. The man fired an array of bullets hitting Jeremy and the shots were fatal.”

Police later said Apperson’s gun was still holstered but that his actions confronting Jackson saved lives. At least one bystander was able to fire a shotgun at Jackson wounding him.

Philadelphia Police Chief Grant Myers said that based upon the initial investigation it appears as though multiple people returned fire after  Jackson began shooting.

At some point, Jackson had attempted to carjack two vehicles. He had apparently gone behind the counter and demanded money from Staats and did get an undisclosed amount of cash and then shot her.

When Jackson fled, he left a vehicle with Hinds county plates in the parking lot. At the time he was apprehended, Jackson was in possession of a loaded firearm.

“He was running around the parking lot with a gun, witnesses said,” according to Myers, who noted that one of the responding police officers was related to Apperson.

Based on 911 radio logs, the first call came in at 5:30 p.m., officers arrived on scene at 5:33 p.m. and had the suspect in custody at 5:35 p.m. near the Econo Lodge breezeway.

Police are talking to at least 15 witnesses and are asking any others to come forward and assist them by calling 601-656-2131.

Myers said police are still awaiting the results of autopsies on the two victims as well as pieces of physical evidence being processed by the state crime lab.

During the arraignment hearing on Monday before Judge Steve Cumberland, Jackson was reserved. He was transported to the courtroom at City Hall wearing his medical gown and was barefooted.

He spoke only when spoken to by the judge. He did not appear to respond while the judge read the charges to him. Jackson told Judge Cumberland that he would hire his own attorney.

At the scene on Saturday, Philadelphia police were assisted by the Neshoba County Sheriff's Department and Choctaw Police.

Myers said that Jackson has an extensive criminal background in Hinds County. He has been charged twice with armed robbery and he appears to have been indicted for murder in 2013.

Myers said the state Department of Corrections has found ways to release convicted criminals earlier and earlier from prison. “I feel that if it is a violent crime they should serve every day of their sentence,” he said.

Jackson was sentenced to 15 years in 2012 in Hinds County. He has been out of prison since January on “earned release supervision,” according to the MDOC website.

He’d gone into City Furniture on Bailey Avenue with the intention of robbing the business, but a store employee shot him, WLBT reported in 2010.

“Police say Jackson boldly entered the store displaying a weapon. But a store employee turned then tables on Jackson when he pulled out a gun and fired several shots at the would-be-robber,” the station reported.