Junior Burnett found guilty of attempted capital murder

Junior Burnett found guilty of attempted capital murder
Junior Burnett

Pearl River County, MS (WDAM) - A former Lamar County Sheriff's deputy and Hattiesburg police sergeant has been found guilty on two counts of attempted capital murder.

Averal "Junior" Burnett, 48, was found guilty by a jury Wednesday in a Pearl River County Court.

The jury deliberated for less than an hour and returned a verdict.

When the verdict was read Burnett dropped his head to the table where he was seated surrounded by his defense attorneys.

The two counts of attempted capital murder occurred while Burnett was housed in a Pearl River County Jail where he was being housed for multiple sexual battery charges out of Lamar County.

Burnett designed and committed an act, that if accomplished, would constitute an offense of capital murder.

Burnett offered fellow inmate Russell Still a thing of value, bonded him out of jail, and gave money to commit the murder of his "soon to be ex-wife" Natasha Burnett, and her daughter.

During day three of testimony, the state called witness Teresa Jenny to the stand.

Jenny stated her name for the record, place of employment, being the Lamar County School District, as well as her involvement with Burnett.

Jenny stated that she was in contact with Burnett a lot, while he was incarcerated. She detailed her contact via many letters, 3 to 4 telephone calls a day, and visiting hours at the jail.

Burnett being constantly in contact with Jenny, got her to obtain his power of attorney, as well as open a new bank account at Wells Fargo bank, and put money into the account.

A 30 minute phone call between Burnett and Jenny was introduced into evidence.

The recorded call detailed Jenny questioning Burnett about inmate Russell Still and the phone calls she was receiving from Still as well as asking if she was in any danger or does he know where she lives.

In that phone conversation Burnett was heard saying: " if he calls back, simply tell him this; if you do not do what you said you were going to do, and leave me alone, we will revoke your bond and you'll have to go back and face Junior."

During testimony it was addressed that Jenny was to purchase a green dot card, as well as a phone for Junior to have in jail, that would be cheaper for them to use instead of the high cost of the jail phone to talk.

Jenny did bond inmate Russell Still out of jail for reasons that Burnett gave her.

According to Jenny, she was unaware of the murder-for-hire plan that the two of them had come up with.

The state called their final witness, Natasha Burnett to the stand.

She testified about the location of her home on a Google map image, as well as its relation to a hand drawn map logged int evidence from Burnett.

She detailed times of her employment schedule at Forrest General Hospital, as well as sleep schedules and her hours.

After Natasha's testimony, the state rested.

Defense then called Pearl River County investigator Marc Ogden back to the stand.

A video recording, as well as phone call from Burnett were questioned. Bringing up names of other inmates in jail, and their "possible" connection to Burnett.

Closing remarks were given by the state and defense, and the case was given to the jury at 3:46 p.m. and the verdict was returned at 4:30 p.m.

The jury deliberated on a sentence for Burnett, but was unable to reach one. Burnett will be sentenced Jan. 6 in Marion County before Judge Prentiss Harrell.

15th Circuit Court District Attorney Hal Kittrell issued a press release stating " this case proves that no one is above the law. Justice dictates that Burnett receive as much time to serve in prison as possible for such heinous crimes. My office will be pushing for a maximum sentence in this case."