3 plead not guilty in Hope pond murder case

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Two people were arraigned on capital murder charges Monday in connection with a body weighted down and anchored in a Hope pond last year.

A third defendant in the case, James Walter Kelly, Jr., was arraigned on capital murder charges and pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

This was one of two separate capital murder cases from Neshoba County where defendants were arraigned Monday in Carthage with Judge Mark Duncan presiding.

Circuit court is currently in session in Carthage. There has been an August term of the grand jury in Neshoba County. Defendants are being taken over to go before a judge after they have been served with their indictment.  

Tyrone Braxton, 23, and Joanna Brook Gilmer, 26, were charged in the October 20, 2019, death of Demarcus Houston who died by suffocation, according to records. The case was made a capital case because of the underlying charge of kidnapping.

Gilmer asked for a public defender and Braxton said he had plans to hire an attorney.

Not guilty pleas were entered for both.

The Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations charged nine people after the body was found in a pond in the Hope community on Feb. 14, 2020. Houston’s family had reported him missing Oct. 23, 2019.

In a separate case, Marcello Young pleaded not guilty to capital murder in the May 11, 2019, murder of Kelsey Ingram in what was believed to have been the result of a dice game gone bad at a mobile home on County Road 737.

Young had earlier been charged with first-degree murder. District Attorney Steven Kilgore said additional evidence turned up that allowed the charge to be upgraded to capital murder.

Young was also arraigned on the charge of tampering with a witness. A not-guilty plea was also entered.

During the arraignment, Young repeatedly objected to being arraigned at that time. He said he had hired an attorney and wanted his counsel there, not the attorney who was standing in.

Young argued repeatedly. Duncan advised him to be quiet and listen, and finally said, “Don’t speak anymore.” 

“He has a private attorney who wasn’t there, but this was a standard procedure,” Kilgore said. “The indictment was read to him. The judge entered a not guilty plea for him. Nothing really happens at this point. You just have to arraign them in a certain amount of time after serving them with their indictment.”

After his two guilty pleas were entered, Young continued to mutter as he left the courtroom.


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