A second man from Pearl River County was found guilty in the killing of Willie ‘Chill’ Jones, who went missing three years ago and was later found buried in the woods, a prosecutor announced Thursday.
Dustin Michael Gray, 27, will be sentenced in October for capital murder, a news release from District Attorney Hal Kittrell’s office said.
“I would like to thank the Pearl River County Sheriff’s department and the Picayune Police Department for their hard work that led to this defendant being brought to justice,” Kittrell said in the release.
Gray and his brother, Austin Brookshire, 21, are now both convicted in the early morning murder in July 2020. The release said the brothers murdered Jones, stole “a substantial sum of money” from him, fled and were eventually found in Colorado. Authorities extradited both to Mississippi for prosecution.
Brookshire is serving life in prison after his sentencing in July.
Jones considered the two brothers friends, the Sun Herald reported in 2020. But Gray and Brookshire planned to rob Jones of money he stored in a box, and family first reported Jones missing three years ago.
According to earlier reported records, Brookshire shot and killed Jones in the backseat of Gray’s car. The killing occurred in Pearl River County, but the brothers buried Jones in a shallow grave in woods near Texas Flat Road in Hancock County, records said.
Blood stained the seats of Gray’s car, according to an affidavit from the case, so he tried to get it cleaned. Car wash employees saw the blood and refused.
Instead, Gray’s father, attorney James L. “Jim” Gray, found blood in the car and reported it to police. With his son on the run, Gray’s father endured online threats and his office burned to the ground under what police called suspicious circumstances.
Family held vigils for Jones, who is Black, while authorities investigated his disappearance in the summer of 2020. The same year, a police officer was arrested on a murder charge in the killing of another Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, and misinformation spread rampantly over Facebook around the time of Jones’ vigils.
Right-wing militias gathered in Picayune on the false premise that Black Lives Matter and Antifa supporters planned to burn the city. No violence occurred.
Erica Deleon Gray, the younger Gray’s 21-year-old wife, allegedly helped her husband clean his bloodied car, then fled with him to Colorado. She is charged with accessory after the fact to murder and has also been extradited to Mississippi.
Assistant District Attorneys John Dowdy and Christina Holcomb prosecuted both brother’s cases.
Sun Herald reporter Margaret Baker contributed to this report.