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WATER VALLEY – A continuance has yet to be requested for the September trial scheduled for Billy Brooks. Court documents indicate that a jury trial is set for Sept. 9 at 9 a.m. in the Water Valley courthouse.
Brooks was indicted for first degree arson in the Dec. 26, 2020 fire at a mobile home located at 12 Pat Drive in the Boat Landing community west of Water Valley. An occupant, Kristina Michell Jones, was discovered deceased inside the home after firefighters discovered the blaze. Her death has not been ruled a homicide. Brooks was also indicted for first degree murder in the June 13, 2021 death of former state representative Ashley Henley.
Brooks’ indictment for arson was handed down by a grand jury on February 24, 2022. An amended, superseding indictment was handed down by a grand jury on June 30 as a second count for first degree murder was added to the original indictment, indicating the two crimes could be connected, and the arson charge and murder charge will be heard during the same trial.
Brooks lived directly across Pat Drive from the property where the mobile home burned and later Henley was killed. He has since moved to Calhoun County and is currently out on a $250,000 bond. Brooks is represented by Coffeeville attorney Bradley Peeples.
Last month Circuit Judge Smith Murphey briefly addressed the trial date during a bond hearing for Brooks at the Sardis courthouse.
“Unless the parties feel like they can’t do it, the court will continue to have those dates,” Judge Murphey told Peeples and Assistant District Attorney Steve Jubera.
Jubera recommended leaving the scheduling order as is during the hearing.
“Your honor, Mr. Peeples and I have been discussing that all morning,” Jubera told the judge. “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 prosecutor added.
Jubera’s response to the Brooks’ discovery motion was filed on July 12. The response included a lengthy list of witnesses and evidence that could be used by the state for prosecution during the trial. The list includes 52 potential witnesses ranging from local law enforcement officers to family members and friends of both the defendant and victim, and including officials at the state crime lab and medical examiners office and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation agents. The response designated expert witnesses who could provide testimony during the trial. The expert witnesses include two deputy state fire marshals; Dennis Akin with AK Analytical, David Arboe with the state medical examiner’s office, 11 officials with the Mississippi Crime Lab and Detective Lynn Sharkey with the Desoto County Sheriff’s Department.
The items listed in the discovery response that could be used in the trial include cell phone data from Joyce Hardy, Billy Brooks, Ashley Henley and Michelle Jones, as well as geofence data, autopsy photos, warrants, photos, 911 calls and all other items listed as evidence in the offense report.