MAGNOLIA, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi jury on Tuesday convicted a man in the 2017 shooting deaths of eight people, including some of his own relatives and a deputy sheriff who responded to a domestic disturbance call.
Willie Cory Godbolt, 37, was found guilty on all charges against him after jurors heard nine days of testimony and a partial day of closing arguments, WLBT-TV reported.
The trial enters a second phase Wednesday, with jurors deciding whether to impose the death penalty for four capital murder convictions. If they cannot reach unanimous agreement on that, the judge will sentence Godbolt to life in prison.
Godbolt spoke to the jury during closing arguments Tuesday, saying he expected to be killed himself on the night of the slayings.
“What came from that night was not the fruit of my heart, but of my perception,” Godbolt said. He denied that he tried to control his wife. “To the end of my life I will always adore Sheena Fay Godbolt.”
Godbolt was convicted of four counts of capital murder, four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery.
According to testimony during the trial, Godbolt went to his in-laws’ home on May 27, 2017, and argued with his estranged wife about their children. Lincoln County deputy sheriff William Durr, Barbara Mitchell, Toccara May and Brenda May were shot to death at that home that night.
Two more people — 18-year-old Jordan Blackwell and 11-year-old Austin Edwards — were killed at a second home in the early hours of May 28, 2017.
Ferral Burage and Sheila Burage, a married couple, were shot to death at a third home a few hours later. Godbolt was arrested near a business as he walked from the Burages’ house, investigators said.
“Of any case out there, this one is full of the defendant’s deliberate design,” assistant district attorney Rodney Tidwell said, adding that “deliberate design” means “intent to kill.”
One of Godbolt’s defense attorneys, Alison Steiner, told jurors during closing arguments that Godbolt felt “genuine love” for his family. She also argued that Godbolt’s state of mind needed to be considered.
“No, he shouldn’t have been shooting at a police officer,” Steiner said. ” He shouldn’t have been there, he shouldn’t have done that, but who would not become passionate if they thought everything they loved was about to be taken away?”
Jurors on Sunday were shown video of Godbolt in the hours after he was accused of killing the eight people, the Daily Leader reported. In one of the videos, Godbolt said: “I’m completely sorry and heartbroken about that deputy.”
Lincoln County sheriff’s Deputy Chuck Francis testified that Godbolt spoke to him about Durr shortly after Godbolt’s arrest.
“If the deputy had family, let them know I’m sorry. He was not part of my plan,” Francis recalled Godbolt telling him.
Jurors also saw cellphone video of Godbolt sitting in handcuffs, bleeding from a gunshot wound to his right arm.