Jones County DA reveals new details about Windermere death investigation

Jones County DA reveals new details about Windermere death investigation

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Laurel leaders are still waiting on evidence results in a death investigation in the Windermere Subdivision, and the district attorney is preparing to present the case to a grand jury.

Laurel police officers and paramedics found 23-year-old Katherine Sinclair inside of car at a home on Windermere Boulevard on June 1 with a single gunshot wound to the head, according to Jones County District Attorney Tony Buckley.

"In a case such as this where there is no neutral eye witness, we must rely on scientific evidence." Buckley said. "There's been gunshot residue taken, gun recovered, bullets, shell casings taken to the crime lab. Blood has been drawn. Clothes have been recovered and taken to the crime lab. Investigators have made two trips to Jackson to the office of the medical examiner."

Buckley said Sinclair's body was sent to the State Crime Lab in Jackson for an autopsy, but evidence is also being tested in the state's regional laboratories in Meridian and on the Gulf Coast. He also said cellphones and an iPad were sent to the cyber crimes unit at the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, and his office has subpoenaed phone, medical and school records. Buckley said he needs provisional report from the medical pathology lab and evidence test results before he can determine if charges could or should be filed, and testing takes time.

"We're waiting on all those crime lab reports, and unfortunately unlike TV, we don't get them right away," he said. "The problem we deal with is everyone watches CSI and thinks that everything gets five minutes. A gun residue test, for example, takes 8 hours, and they can only do like two a day. They may have hundreds off cases there."

Buckley said the main piece of evidence in investigation is the inside of the car where Sinclair was found shot, which was inside of a garage a home on Windermere Boulevard.

"The focus of the investigation is the interior of the car," he said. "It is not the floor of the garage at all. We know that from having spoken with an expert that has examined the car. The car was impounded immediately by the investigators, and no access was given to the family to that car. It's safely secured. If i could turn the clock back I would say that I wish that after the police had left, an officer mentioned that they could clean the garage floor. Of course I wish that had not occurred. At the time, you don't know what could be evidence, but we now know they may as well have cleaned the attic because the car is the evidence of the investigation, the central focus of the investigation."

Buckley said the investigation is more complicated because Sinclair was alive inside of the car when police and paramedics arrived at the home. While it's the moral, legal and ethical obligation of the paramedics and police to get her out of the car and to the hospital, Buckley said it's more difficult for police and his office to quickly determine if the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or not.

"They're looking for who done it, where we've got to determine first if somebody can make that determination, and if they do we know who it would be," Buckley said.

Investigators recovered the shell casing, projectile and gun to be tested. Buckley said the gun will also be tested for fingerprints, but said the police body camera footage from the responding Laurel Police Officers has been an important tool for investigators to recreate the scene.

"I'd like to commend the first responders - that's the patrolmen of Laurel Police Department and the paramedics from the hospital -for their compassionate display on camera," Buckley said. "The camera quality is excellent, and has helped us preserve the initial scene of the investigation."

Buckley said medical examiners at the State Crime Lab requested to view the body camera footage to help in their investigation. At this point, he said he doesn't have a timeline for when he could receive a preliminary autopsy report.

"If I went by the past, the timeline wouldn't be good," he said. "I think it would be like 90 days, three months, on a provisional, and then usually a hard, written copy is six months. Obviously, I don't want it to be six months."

In the meantime, Buckley said he is preparing to present the body camera footage and the homeowner's 911 call to a grand jury as soon as July.

"I think because the evidence is going to come in a little piecemeal, one agency is quicker or slower than another, we may present it in stages," Buckley said. "I have a grand jury in July scheduled. I do intend to play in July the body cams and the audio tape in their entirety behind closed doors in the courtroom, so we don't hit them all at one day. Give them the option, of course, to hear everything again as much as they want."

Buckley said by this standards, there are three kinds of fair cases where arrest warrants aren't issued upfront: apparent suicide, accidental death and apparent self-defense. He said those are typical cases where information is gathered first, and then the case is then sent to a grand jury.

As he and police wait for evidence test results, he asks the public to be patient.

"I just want to reassure that it's ongoing, not forgotten certainly, but I recognize the frustration of waiting for that," Buckley said. "I know where it comes from. It comes from the fact that people think that results come quickly, and I do want to assure that it's going to go to be presented thoroughly to a grand jury."