Brooks Indicted For Henley’s Murder
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WATER VALLEY – A grand jury has indicted Billy Brooks for the June 13, 2021 murder of former state representative Ashley Henley. The indictment for first degree murder came during the grand jury session in Water Valley on June 30 and remained sealed until it was served on July 5. Brooks was taken into custody in Calhoun County by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department. He was booked in the Yalobusha County Detention Center shortly after 7 p.m. on July 5 and released on a $250,000 bond on July 7.
Brooks was previously indicted for arson in the Dec. 26, 2020 fire at a mobile home located at 12 Pat Drive. The occupant, Kristina Michelle Jones, was discovered deceased inside the home after firefighters extinguished the blaze. Her death has not been ruled a homicide as the Officer of State Medical Examiner’s preliminary autopsy report listed the cause of death as unknown and the manner of death as undetermined. The report also started there was no soot in Jones’ airway, indicating she was dead before the fire.
Henley, the sister-in-law of Jones, was outside the burned out mobile home six months later when she was gunned down, shot in the head. Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation are involved in the ongoing investigations.
Brooks was arrested for arson for the 2020 fire on June 18, 2021, five days after Henley was gunned down. He remained incarcerated until Sept. 11, 2021, when he posted a $75,000 bond. A grand jury subsequently indicted him on the arson charge on Feb. 24, 2022.
The June 30 indictment was an amended superseding indictment, meaning the murder charge was added to the original Feb. 24 indictment for arson, a possible indication the two crimes are connected.
Brooks lived directly across Pat Drive from the property where the mobile home burned and later Henley was killed. He had since moved to Calhoun County.
Circuit Judge Smith Murphey set the $250,000 bond during a hearing at the Panola County Courthouse in Sardis on July 7. Murphey heard arguments from prosecuting attorney asking for the maximum $1,000,000 bond. Brandon Henley, the husband of the late Ashley Henley attended the hearing, as did Brooks’ wife and family members.
“Your honor, the State is asking for a bond of one million dollars,” Assistant District Attorney Steve Jubera recommended during the hearing. “The State is not going to offer any testimony at this time. Simply the argument that a one million dollar bond for first degree murder that occurred six months after the allegations of the arson necessitates a substantial bond.”
Brooks’ attorney, Brad Peeples urged the judge to consider the minimum $25,000 bond for first degree murder. Peeples noted that Brooks had already been out on a $75,000 bond for the earlier arson charge and wore an ankle bracelet monitoring device.
“He has been out on bond this entire time. If I have asked him to be somewhere, he has been there. I am not aware of any crimes or anything that he has been accused of since the bond was set and he made bond,” Peeples told the judge. Peeples added that Brooks and his family have limited means.
“If the court sets the bond at much more than $25,000, this is essentially going to be the equivalent of no bond,” Peeples said. “Also take into consideration Mr. Brooks will continue to wear an ankle monitor.”
Jubera had the final input before Judge Murphey ruled, telling the court that a $25,000 bond is not reasonable for first degree murder, nor consistent with other bonds handed down in the court.
Judge Murphey ruled on the matter with the quarter-million dollar bond, telling the attorneys that the amount is consistent with the charge. He also noted that an excessive bond amount is not defined by the individual’s finances.
Pre-Trial Scheduling Order
The judge also questioned the lawyers on the pre-trial scheduling order that included a plea day on Sept. 8 and a trial date on Sept. 26. With the amended superseding indictment, the court schedule already established for the arson charge remains the same.
“Unless the parties feel like they can’t do it, the court will continue to have those date,” the judge stated.
Jubera recommended leaving the scheduling order as is right now.
“Your honor, Mr. Peeples and I have been discussing that all morning,” Jubera said. “There is substantial discovery that is going to come along with the murder allegations. My intention is to get that to Mr. Peeples the middle of next week.”
The hearing ended as Judge Murphey told Brooks he will be remanded back to the custody of the Sheriff of Yalobusha County.
The indictment is a formal charge, meaning that the members of the grand jury found probable cause that Brooks committed the crime. The indictment is not proof of guilt, instead it triggers the criminal proceedings.