Two members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are facing life sentences in a 2017 homicide, while another faces 15 years.

Jerome Steve, 33, Keenan Martin, 26, and Keyshawn Willis, 21, all of Philadelphia, entered guilty pleas last week before U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III for the murder of Demetrius Duane Sam of the Tucker community, who was 35 years old at the time of his death.




Steve and Martin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, Willis to manslaughter, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Freeze announced Tuesday, July 3.

The murder took place in the early morning hours of November 2, 2017, in the Tucker community on Tribal land. Sam’s body was found at a residence on Frank Simpson Road. According to the Associated Press, an April 18 sworn statement by FBI agent Charles Morrow Jr. says Martin, Steve and Willis confessed on video to beating Sam with their hands and feet, and then with a steel pipe, shovel and posthole digger. Sam was then doused with lighter fluid and set on fire, according to the report.

The defendants will be sentenced on Oct. 10 and 11. Steve and Martin will face a possible statutory sentence of life in prison and fine of $250,000, Willis will face a possible sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Criminal Chief Patrick Lemon, Assistant United States Attorney Erin Chalk and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Payne. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Choctaw Police Department.