No foul play, Leake grand jury rules
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:00 AM
A Leake County grand jury last week found no criminal wrongdoing in the death of a Philadelphia man who drowned in a shallow slough north of Edinburg after fleeing Leake sheriff's deputies in the predawn hours of Jan. 29.
An autopsy released this week showed that the man, Cortez Aliandiae Coburn, 28, died from accidental fresh water drowning in two feet of water, according to Leake County Coroner Earl Adams. The precise time of death remains unknown.
Coburn, whose driver's license listed his address at 224 Estes Road, Louisville, was wearing sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt at the time of his death, Adams said. The authorities initially gave his address as 28 Central Avenue, but there is no Central Avenue in Philadelphia.
"He did not have a coat on," Adams said.
The low temperature that night was 16 degrees and the wind-chill could have made conditions even colder.
Toxicology tests showed the presence of marijuana, Adams said.
The case was presented to the Leake grand jury at the request of the Leake Sheriff, said District Attorney Mark Duncan.
"We do that in a lot of death cases," Duncan said. "It gets on the record. This is the most public way to do it.
"No criminal wrongdoing was found. There were no injuries to the body. No struggle."
Coburn was last seen by his family on Jan. 28. He was reported missing to the Philadelphia Police Department on Feb. 1. Investigators, finally on Feb. 3 after chasing many bad leads, learned Coburn had been questioned by Leake County deputies days earlier and fled.
In the early morning of Jan. 29, two Leake County Sheriff's deputies were parked at the Edinburg One Stop waiting for employees to enter the store when they received a report of a suspicious vehicle about a mile north at Eagle Park on Mars Hill Road, which connects Mississippi 16 and Mississippi 25.
The park is just past Edinburg Attendance Center on the right side of the road.
The report, at 3:16 a.m., said the vehicle was occupied.
Officers found Coburn parked in a gold Chevrolet Caprice. He told the deputies that he'd run out of gas.
One of the deputies smelled an odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle and began questioning Coburn, the incident report said.
Coburn told the deputies there was a can of beer in the vehicle and an unloaded pistol in the glove compartment.
The deputy then patted down Coburn for weapons and found a marijuana grinder in the right rear pocket of his coveralls, the incident report said.
The deputy also found a partial marijuana cigarette on the driver's side floor board of the vehicle. A .25 caliber pistol was also found.
Authorities conducted a routine records check and found outstanding misdemeanor warrants for his arrest.
When the deputies asked Coburn about the warrants, he fled west on foot across Mars Hill Road and into the woods.
The deputies gave chase unsuccessfully, the incident report said. After the brief chase, one circled back to the patrol cars and called for a wrecker to tow Coburn's vehicle.
At some point, a third deputy responded.
Duncan said deputies stayed in the area "for quite some time, hours, just patrolling the road. They figured it was so cold that he would come out somewhere."
During that period, Duncan said they received information from a person who saw someone get into a car around the school.
"They thought that might have been him," Duncan said. "Of course, it turned out it wasn't."
He said Coburn's cell phone was not found during the investigation.
A check of records did not turn up any additional leads to his whereabouts, he said.
"I think they expected him to call somebody," Duncan said.
Affidavits were filed against Coburn charging him with resisting arrest, possession of beer and possession of paraphernalia.
Coburn's body was spotted from the air on Feb. 7 not far from where he fled.
Leake County Sheriff Greg Waggoner said the body was found about a quarter mile off Mars Hill Road with the help of a National Guard helicopter.
"Beavers had cut down a lot of bushes and there was just a little pool of water there," Waggoner said.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was brought in because of multi-jurisdictional issues involved in the case, officials said.
Duncan said officials from MBI interviewed several people and examined the autopsy results as part of its investigation.
Philadelphia Police investigators had earlier contacted Coburn's place of employment and his neighbors and worked several leads into his possible whereabouts. The Neshoba County Sheriff's department also assisted in following up on leads in Neshoba County, said Philadelphia Chief of Police Grant Myers.
Coburn was from Louisville. He was a 2004 graduate of Louisville High School. He attended East Central Community College. He was employed at Tyson Foods.
Coburn, who would have turned 29 on Sunday, liked action films and one of his favorite televisions shows was "Family Guy." Among the Facebook pages he likes was "I Know The Bible Is Right."
Friends and family have set up a Facebook page, "Justice for Cortez 'Dre' Coburn," and a web site, http://justiceforcortez.com and @justice4cortez on Twitter.
According to one Facebook post, donations are being accepted for the family to hire a private pathologist to perform a second autopsy.
Multiple attempts by the Democrat since Coburn's death to reach his friends and family have been unsuccessful.