Verdict in Pearl River County cold case: guilty

Pearl River County, MS (WDAM) - James "Duke" Polk Jr., 44, was found guilty of the 1993 murder of Kimberly Rowell, 18, in Pearl River County Courthouse on Thursday.

Polk was sentenced to life in prison for the 21 year-old murder.

After the verdict was announced Polk said, "I'm not guilty, that is all."

According to the autopsy, Rowell was killed by being shot in the back of the head on Columbia Primary School playground in Columbia, Miss. on Aug. 25,1993.

Testimonies from the trial said that Rowell was shot eight times after being forced to undress.

Rowell was found the next day by children with her clothes folded in a pile next to her body, according to the police report.

Attorney General Jim Hood said, "We also appreciate the persistence and hard work of the USM Police Department's Cold Case Unit who greatly assisted us in this investigation."

According to a news release from Attorney General Hood, Polk's cousin, Howard Earl Polk, Jr., was also implicated in the crime but died before going to trial. He was accused of pulling the trigger first before giving the gun to James to "finish the job."

Investigators Ronnie Odom and Danny Welch with the Public Integrity Division of the Attorney general's Office investigated this case along with Captain Rusty Keyes of the University of Southern Mississippi's Cold Case Unit.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.

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