A community desperate for answers was left disappointed Wednesday afternoon after the bond hearing for Sheldon Timothy Herrington Jr., charged with the murder of University of Mississippi student Jimmie “Jay” Lee, was postponed up to two weeks at the request of the defense.
The hearing will take place on or before Aug. 10 but a date has yet to be specified.
Herrington, 22 of Grenada and a 2022 graduate of the university, was arrested and charged with the murder on July 22. Lee’s body has not been recovered.
“I understand that the state has filed a motion to hold Mr. Herrington without bail. I don’t think it’s intentional on their (the State of Mississippi’s) part. I just haven’t been served a copy of it,” Herrington’s attorney, Kevin Horan, said during his appearance at the Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford on Wednesday. “At this time, we ask that the hearing be set at a future date.”
Herrington’s bond hearing initially was set for July 25, but Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Gray Tollison granted a continuance pushing Herrington’s bond hearing to Wednesday. The courtroom was filled to capacity with individuals supporting both Herrington and Lee as Tollison presided over Herrington’s appearance.
Herrington, wearing an orange jumpsuit, spoke minimally with a muted disposition. The judge had to prompt him to speak more loudly. He made no eye contact with other individuals in the courtroom.
Lee’s mother and father sat in the front row.
Prosecutor Tiffany L. Kilpatrick, the Third Circuit assistant district attorney, clarified that documents requesting a bond revocation were served to the public defender who previously represented Herrington. Still, she offered no objection to postponing Herrington’s bond hearing.
In the meantime, Herrington will continue to be held at the Lafayette County Detention Center.
Though Herrington has been charged with simple murder, state attorneys have expressed in court documents that they have reason to believe that charge will be elevated to capital murder, and they have moved to revoke and deny Herrington bond.
“The proof is evident and/or presumption great that the release of the Defendant would constitute a special danger to the community and, more importantly, poses a profound flight risk,” Kilpatrick said in a motion. “Specifically, the Defendant is at this time charged with what is commonly known as ‘simple murder’ at this point in time based upon the evidence available as of the writing of this Motion. Clearly the Defendant will be facing Capital Murder charges if evidence of such is discovered in this ongoing investigation. As of now, Jay Lee’s body has not been recovered.”
Both simple murder and capital murder are instances in which someone is being accused of killing someone else. But they differ in terms of how the crime was committed and the severity of punishment that a judge can order.
Capital murder is eligible for the death penalty or life with or without the possibility of parole. In Mississippi, the required sentence for first-degree murder is life in prison and second-degree murder carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years, or life in prison.
Lee, a 20-year-old from Jackson who ran for Homecoming King at Ole Miss last fall, has not been seen since the early hours of July 8. Though local law enforcement officials believe they have found Lee’s murderer, Lee’s body has yet to be found. Initially, the Oxford Police Department and University Police Department were working jointly on the case. The local agencies have since been joined by the Oxford Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Lee was last seen at 5:58 a.m. that Friday at Campus Walk Apartments. His family members realized he was missing later that day when he did not show up for a baby-formula donation drive that he had organized.
His car was towed by Bandit Towing Company from Molly Barr Apartments on Friday afternoon and located by law enforcement on July 11. After local law enforcement discovered Lee’s vehicle, the search for Lee went into full swing.
Local law enforcement announced that the local FBI field office joined the investigation on July 19, and on July 22 Herrington was arrested and charged with the murder of Lee.
“Law enforcement agencies are still working to locate Lee’s body. This is still an ongoing investigation and updates will be given at a later date,” OPD shared on Twitter on July 22.
No subsequent updates have come from the department.
LGBTQ+ community and allies rally for Lee
Outside the courthouse, approximately 20 individuals, members of a group called “Justice for Jay Lee,” stood with signs and chanted in demonstration for hours, even confronting Herrington directly as he exited the courthouse.
Though the group is Oxford based, the movement drew support from individuals outside of the local community, particularly Memphis.
“No more. Justice for Jay Lee,” Moth Moth Moth of Focus Magazine in Memphis said amongst other demonstrators outside of the Lafayette County Courthouse. “Jay Lee was a drag performer and a brilliant artist. I have held their drag sisters who miss them. So I see the pain that is in this community. Memphis is here and we love you and we’re here for you.”
Porsha Lesure, Adrian Word, Carson Hervey and Braylyn Johnson are members of the University of Mississippi Class of 2022, making them classmates of both Lee and Herrington. They described being shocked by other classmates who showed up in support of Herrington.
“How can you be so delusional?” asked one of the students.
The former students are planning more events through “Justice for Jay Lee,” including at Herrington’s rescheduled bond hearing.