Mississippi drops charges in killing of former state lawmaker but says new charges are possible

FILE - House Education Committee member Ashley Henley, R-Southaven, asks a question about teacher pay raise legislation presented before the committee on Jan. 31, 2019, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. On Nov. 17, 2023, a judge signed an order to drop indictments on murder and arson against Billy Lamar Brooks in the June 2021 death of Henley and the earlier burning of a building. Prosecutors saying they needed more time to investigate, and new charges could be brought later. Henley served in the Mississippi House from 2016 to 2020. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi prosecutors have dismissed indictments against a man in the shooting death of a former state lawmaker and the earlier burning of a building, saying they need more time to investigate.

The murder and arson charges against Billy Lamar Brooks were dismissed without prejudice, which means a grand jury could consider new charges later, according to a document filed Friday in Yalobusha County Circuit Court.

Republican former state Rep. Ashley Henley, 40, was shot to death in June 2021 outside the burned-out mobile home in a rural area where her sister-in-law, Kristina Michelle Jones, was found dead in December 2020.

“After reviewing the case for trial, attorneys for the State requested additional time to fully investigate and review this matter,” said the document signed by an assistant district attorney and Circuit Judge Smith Murphey.

The document said it is “not possible to estimate the timeframe needed to complete this investigation,” but prosecutors could present the case to a grand jury at some point.

Brooks’ attorney, Bradley Peeples, declined to comment Wednesday on this latest development. He told The Associated Press that Brooks has been out on bond since last year.

Henley and other relatives contended Yalobusha County authorities were doing too little to examine possible criminal charges in Jones’ death. Relatives put up a homemade sign at the mobile home site with photos of Jones under the phrase, “I was murdered.”

Yalobusha County coroner Ronnie Stark said Henley had been mowing grass at the site before she was killed.

Brooks, who lived near Jones, was indicted in February 2022 on a charge of maliciously setting fire to the home of Jones and Terry Henley. Court records show that on June 30, 2022, a grand jury filed a new indictment against Brooks to add a murder charge in the death of Ashley Henley.

Investigators said Henley’s body had been found on June 13, 2021. The dismissed indictment accused Brooks of killing her on or about the same day.

Ashley Henley served in the Mississippi House from 2016 to 2020 in a district in DeSoto County, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) north of where she was killed. She was a teacher before she was elected to office, and she often took her young son to the state Capitol during legislative sessions.

Henley sought a second term in November 2019 and lost by 14 votes to a Democrat. She challenged the election results, saying she believed she had found some voting irregularities. A bipartisan House committee held a public hearing on her challenge and unanimously dismissed her request for a new election.



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