Published 12:00 am Friday, April 1, 2011

Three charged with murdering NP grad

By David Howell

Three?Crenshaw men have been charged with capital murder following the Monday night homicide of Ira Phillips Jr.

Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin reported Wednesday afternoon that Damion Stokes, JaQuentin Lawson, Derrick Dunston, all of Crenshaw, have been charged with capital murder.

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Additional charges against the three men could be pending, according to the sheriff.

Funeral services for Phillips are set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Holly Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Crenshaw. Burial will be in Longtown Cemetery.

Griffin cited good teamwork as the three arrests were made shortly after a caller reported a “body laying face down in a pool of blood” about 9:30 p.m. Monday night.  

“Two of the men were arrested that night and the third was arrested the next morning,” Griffin reported.

He also said there were indications of “four or five gunshots” being fired in the first homicide recorded in the county this year.

Crenshaw police officers were first to arrive on the scene, at an area of the town known as the “Renasant,” approximately 10 minutes after the call, and confirmed the death. Almost 10 minutes later, a Panola County deputy also arrived on the scene.

Griffin credited the Crenshaw Police Department as well as the Quitman and Tunica county sheriff departments and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation for their help with the investigation.

The sheriff did not comment on a motive, but said it could be drug related and the investigation continues.

The victim “appeared shot a couple of times in the back as if he was trying to run or flee from something.”

Phillips was a graduate of North Panola High School where he played football for the Cougars. He also had attended Northwest Mississippi Community College.

“Twenty years old,” Griffin said, his voice trailing off.