‘I am unable to consider something adverse:’ Letters from buddies, household portray of Ole Miss graduate accused of homicide

A superintendent, a rustic singer, and the Grenada County Sheriff had been amongst 69 buddies, household and native officers who wrote letters final month asking a Lafayette County Circuit Court docket choose to launch Sheldon Timothy Herrington, Jr., the school graduate. of Mississippi charged with the homicide of Jimmie “Jay” Lee.

As practically a dozen protesters exterior chanted so loudly they may very well be heard within the second-floor courtroom on August 9, letters from a lot of those that sat behind Herrington argued for a distinct consequence than the listening to of practically six hours: for Choose Grey Tollison to ship the 22-year-old to his dad and mom.

A household good friend put it this manner: “I actually cannot consider something adverse once I converse for Sheldon Timothy Herrington.”

The letters to Tollison, all written earlier than proof was offered on the listening to, described the Herrington his Grenada neighborhood knew: not Tim, however “Timmy,” the soft-spoken son of an “influential” household who he wore glasses in highschool. him, he sang within the choir and performed the guitar in church, and he at all times known as his academics “sir” and “ma’am.”

A highschool commencement picture of Tim Herrington that his mom supplied to the Lafayette County Circuit Court docket.

“He was a wonderful pupil and labored very onerous to attain his academic objectives,” wrote David Daigneault, the Grenada Faculty District superintendent who taught Herrington’s father, aunt and uncle at Grenada Excessive Faculty. “Timmy is very revered by his classmates and academics.”

It’s typical for family and friends. write letters of character to assist your accused beloved one get bail. Within the case of Herrington, the variety of letters is outstanding and displays the appreciation that his household has in Granada, a small city of about 12,500 folks about an hour’s drive south of Oxford on MS-Freeway 7.

For Tevin Coleman, Herrington’s half-brother, the quantity of people that wrote letters proves his brother’s innocence.

“I imply, you noticed the individuals who received up and the individuals who know him from when he was a child to now,” Coleman instructed Mississippi At the moment. “When it comes all the way down to it, we’re all in shock, we’re all devastated, and we’re all desirous to show his innocence.”

Regardless of these pleas, Tollison denied Herrington’s bail after the prosecution offered proof that he deliberate to maneuver to Dallas and, the day earlier than Lee’s homicide, looked for flights to Singapore. He’ll wait on the Lafayette County Detention Middle for a grand jury listening to, probably someday subsequent 12 months.

In the meantime, police have but to search out Lee’s physique greater than 75 days after she went lacking. Lee is the third female-appearing queer particular person killed in Mississippi this 12 months, in keeping with the Human Rights Marketing campaign, a quantity that displays the excessive fee of violence towards the state’s small LGBTQ neighborhood.

The Oxford Police Division has not shared new details about the case for the reason that preliminary listening to when Ryan Baker, a detective, testified that Herrington drove a shifting truck to Granada on the identical day he allegedly killed Lee and recovered a shovel and a wheelbarrow from his dad and mom’ home. within the GlenBrook neighborhood.

However it’s unclear to what extent OPD is working with legislation enforcement in Grenada. The sheriff, Rolando Truthful, instructed Mississippi At the moment he couldn’t remark as a result of “the investigation shouldn’t be my investigation” and nobody from Oxford has contacted him personally though officers executed a search warrant on the residence of the 2. Herrington dad and mom in late July.

In his letter to the choose, Truthful wrote that he has recognized the Herrington household for greater than 20 years.

“They’ve been pillars in our neighborhood and within the church,” Truthful wrote. “Sheldon and Tina Herrington are members of assorted organizations which have helped and altered the lives of so many individuals. I’ve additionally recognized Sheldon Timothy Herrington, Jr. since I used to be a little bit child, by no means had an issue with him.”

Lee’s homicide drew nationwide consideration and sparked a motion, known as Justice for Jay Lee, to maintain his legacy alive by protesting exterior the Herrington hearings and pushing for extra protections for LGBTQ folks in Oxford.

Justice for Jay Lee member Braylyn Johnson, who was his school roommate, additionally knew Herrington by way of campus organizations such because the Black Pupil Union and the scholar authorities’s Black Caucus.

She mentioned the proof towards Herrington would not sound just like the particular person she knew, however the disconnect did not make her imagine he is harmless. She referred to the Snapchat messages Herrington despatched to Lee after they linked on the morning of July 8 and her Google search, “how lengthy does it take to strangle somebody petite gabby.”

“It was cryptic to me as somebody who had been near Tim for all these years and knew him,” he mentioned. “These messages did not appear to come back from Tim, however… from I do not know, John Wayne Gacy, somebody bizarre.”

Coleman mentioned he thought the prosecution made assumptions about his brother. throughout the preliminary listening to and that he couldn’t say whether or not all of the proof offered was factual.

“I actually do not know if it was really Tim who despatched the Snapchat messages,” he mentioned. “I imply, they are saying it’s, so there’s an opportunity it is him within the Snapchat messages, so I imply, that may very well be a given.”

On the preliminary listening to, the prosecutor, Tiffany Kilpatrick, argued that Herrington was dwelling a double life unknown to his household and buddies in Grenada.

Many individuals from Grenada wrote that the crime didn’t sound just like the Herrington they knew.

“We proceed to observe the unbelievable information that Tim has been arrested and is going through an unbelievable cost,” nation singer Charlie Worsham and his dad and mom wrote to the choose. “We discover this tough to imagine and fully incongruous with the particular person we all know.”

In response to the Worshams’ letter, Herrington taught minority outreach guitar classes for his nonprofit minority outreach program, Observe Your Coronary heart Arts.

A number of letters describe Herrington’s household as “distinctive” and “God-fearing,” a status that stems largely from Ample Life Meeting, an apostolic Christian church based 40 years in the past by Herrington’s grandfather, James. Herrington’s father, Sheldon, can be concerned as an assistant pastor.

The brick church sits on a grassy hill just some minutes from downtown. Herrington grew up following his grandfather across the property like a shadow, James wrote in his letter to the choose, serving to with cleanup after sorority dinners, taking part in guitar in worship, instructing Sunday faculty and mentoring younger youngsters.

“He has at all times needed to be like his Papaw,” James wrote, later including, “He actually is a superb younger man.”

Herrington’s arrest on July 22 was devastating, James wrote, and he was praying not just for his household, however for Lee’s as effectively. If the choose granted Herrington bail, James wrote that “together with his affect,” he knew his grandson would abide by any stipulation.

Mississippi At the moment known as the church to achieve James. Sheldon responded, saying the household “is not allowed to speak to anybody,” however Coleman known as a reporter a number of hours later.

A number of members of the Herrington household work within the faculty district. Her mom, Tina, is an administrator on the central workplace and her uncle, Reginald, is an assistant principal at an elementary faculty.

Daigneault, the superintendent, was subpoenaed by his lawyer, state Rep. Kevin Horan, to testify throughout his bond listening to. Herrington’s father was additionally subpoenaed, though neither was known as to the stand. When contacted by a Mississippi At the moment reporter, Daigneault mentioned he would assist any pupil within the faculty district, however wouldn’t remark additional.

Twenty-six letters had been from present and former district academics and directors, in addition to elementary, center, and highschool principals. Many recalled seeing Herrington develop up and the way respectful he was within the classroom.

“’Sure mother’ and ‘No mother’ are only a pure a part of her vocabulary,” one trainer wrote.

His academics famous that Herrington had by no means been in bother earlier than.

“I by no means noticed Timothy act violent in the direction of anybody,” wrote a former Grenada Center Faculty principal who now works with Herrington’s mother within the entrance workplace. “From my experiences with Timmy, I am unable to think about him committing this homicide cost. I am unable to even think about Timmy getting right into a combat.”

Herrington’s household’s status is proof that he wouldn’t flee the state, wrote a former elementary faculty counselor in Grenada.

“For generations, the Herringtons have labored onerous, studied effectively, earned school levels, chosen admirable careers to make an actual distinction to others, and established profitable lives of their neighborhood.” the counselor wrote. “His achievements don’t make his son a flight threat.”

Johnson, a member of Justice for Jay Lee, mentioned he feels folks in Oxford who had initially defended Herrington stopped speaking in regards to the case as soon as they noticed proof from final month’s listening to.

She mentioned that when communities ignore circumstances like Lee’s, it contributes to the continuation of violence towards queer folks.

“These usually are not the form of tales that individuals ought to use as a ‘wow issue,'” he mentioned. “These are the sorts of tales that must be used as examples in order that actual change can occur.”

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