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Verona police respond to why murder suspect was out on bond for previous deadly shooting

Family members are seeking justice after their elderly aunt was taken from them in a deadly drive-by shooting.

Posted: Dec. 12, 2018 10:48 PM
Updated: Dec. 13, 2018 9:19 AM

LEE COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) - Family members are seeking justice after their elderly aunt was taken from them in a deadly drive-by shooting.

Concern has been raised as to why the still-wanted suspect was out on bond for a previous murder charge.

“This person was minding their own business in their own home when this happened," said Bishop Dr. C.L. Parks, the nephew of the victim. "For someone to just come by and start shooting in someone’s home and not even know who’s in the house."

Parks says his aunt Annie Walton was a cook for a number of years.

She was using a breathing machine at the time her home was riddled with bullets.

“She raised me so many years of my life," shared Barbara Wise, the niece of Walton. "I stayed with her and my uncle. They raised me. They made sure I went to school. They made sure I had proper clothing.”

However, the woman who was so instrumental in Wise's life is now gone.

Authorities say this is because of Latavious Betts, 17, who is still running from the law.

Betts was originally charged with first-degree murder back in April for a Verona shooting.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson says he never faced a judge in an initial appearance.

He also says that documents were never signed by the judge or Johnson for the suspect's waiver of initial appearance, appearance bond or recognizance appearance bond.

WTVA asked Verona Police Chief J.B. Long as to why.

“The reason there was no signature was because it was stated at the time he was not the individual,” stated Long.

The police chief goes on to say that the suspect's father backed up his alibi, placing him elsewhere at the time of the shooting.

“I spoke with Betts’ father by phone," shares Long. "He did state that Latavious was home with him. At that point and time, I did not have the sufficient information that I needed to keep him. Mr. Betts was released.”

The Verona police chief says that two female witnesses named another man as the April Verona shooter.

As to why a judge was not aware of Betts' history when he was brought before her in an aggravated assault case, Long could not answer.

“I cannot say why she was not notified. On that particular day, the only thing discussed at that time was the actual shooting that took place. It was not the actual previous charge.”

Walton's family has a candlelight vigil set for the victim at her home on Sunday. A funeral is set for next Tuesday.

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