MARION COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A man accused of a leading role in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a prominent Marion County businessman was denied bond again Monday during another court hearing.
Victor Mitchell, 42 of Sumrall, appeared in Lamar County before Judge Billy Andrews for a Habeas corpus hearing, in effort to have a bond set.
Mitchell, who faces a conspiracy to commit murder charge for allegedly conspiring to kill businessman and IHL Board member Thomas "Tommy" Duff, was previously denied bond during a detention hearing Nov. 21.
According to court files, "Victor Mitchell on Nov. 18, 2016, in the County of Lamar aforesaid, did lawfully, willfully, and feloniously, without lawful authority conspire with Howard Cameron and Glen Evans to commit the crime of murder in that they did agree to kidnap, rape, torture and murder Tommy Duff against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi."
Mitchell, who is being represented by attorney Michael Reed, had four character witnesses take the stand to testify on his behalf.
Tara Mitchell, wife of Victor, was the first to take the stand.
Tara told the court about her ongoing struggles at home without Victor around, calling him a "daddy daycare."
She explained his (Victor's) current job is working at Mitchell Construction, "a business that does street and parking lot sweeping, including Walmart and several other places."
Prior to that, she explained Victor worked at Walmart, and worked his way up from a sales associate to a store manager.
"We are comfortable, we have groceries and a roof over our head, we don't have a lavish lifestyle but we're comfortable, but we do live paycheck to paycheck," Tara said.
She told specific stories of how he would always help people and would give anyone the shirt off his back.
"He's probably the most giving person in my life I've ever met," Tara said. "I've known him to do nothing but be helpful to people.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Miller on cross examination asked had Victor ever been arrested.
"One time he may have gotten into a tiff…, and may have been arrested, I'm not sure," Tara said.
Betty A., who is a former school teacher and Columbia resident, has known Victor since the fifth grade.
"Victor is the most precious human I have ever known," Betty A. said.
Raymond M. is the former manager of the Columbia Walmart where Victor worked.
He testified that he was a bright man with a future in management, and he promoted him and he worked his way up to store manager, and even took over his own store in Bogalusa, Louisiana.
Raymond said Victor eventually resigned from his job, but said he "really didn't know why."
Joy R., a family member of Victor's, also took the stand to testify.
She echoed the others' testimony, about how he was always willing to be helpful and he was always her "go-to if something were ever wrong."
Leo Clemons, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Special Agent investigator, was the state's only witness to take the stand.
Clemons detailed that there are other charges pending against Victor in the case, including possible charges linked to kidnapping, extortion and sodomy.
"We think this is one of those special cases, this is a conspiracy to murder someone and there are other charges to be filed," Clemons said.
According to Clemons' testimony, the investigation was sparked when a confidential informant contacted a Hattiesburg police officer with information pertaining to a murder-for-hire plot.
"That officer contacted MBI for assistance in the case, he said it just was something that he hadn't dealt with and needed some help in the investigation," Clemons said. "With that information, and recorded phone calls we have with the informant and Victor, we were able to arrange a meeting and able to take the people involved down."
Victor, Cameron and Evans were all arrested around 1 a.m. Saturday Nov. 19, at the T&D Mini Mart at the corner of the Evelyn Gandy Parkway and Monroe Road in Forrest County by members of the Marion and Lamar County Sheriff's Department, Hattiesburg Police and MBI.
Clemons was asked how strong the evidence is in the case.
"Very strong, I feel like we will get a conviction without a doubt," Clemons said. "We heard phone calls, we found specific items/evidence in the car to collaborate the case."
Clemons went on to testify that if Victor was released, he would be a real danger to the witnesses and victim in the case.
Judge Andrews met with the attorneys in the case, and then reviewed three Supreme Court cases that deal with setting bonds.
"Based on this testimony, and this plan and plot according to the testimony was confirmed by a confidential informant, I cannot in good conscious grant the defendant bail," Andrews said. "I find that he is a special danger to the witnesses and victim in this case."
Duff, who is an Institutions of Higher Learning board member was appointed to the IHL Board by Gov. Phil Bryant in May 2015 to represent the Second (Southern) Supreme Court District.
He is also a co-owner, along with his brother, of Duff Capital Investors, according to his biography on the Mississippi Public Universities website.
The Duff family previously released this statement:
"The Duffs were unaware of this person, attempt and know very few details, they are very pleased with how this being handled by the authorities," said a spokesperson for the family.
Glen Evans, 46, of Gulfport and Howard Cameron, 47, of Biloxi were both arrested on Nov. 19, and charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
They were both denied bond in their detention hearing and remain in custody in the Lamar County Jail.