Cruz receives life sentence for 2016 murder

Cruz receives life sentence for 2016 murder
Melissa Dawn Cruz Source: WDAM
Melissa Dawn Cruz Source: WDAM

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - After closing arguments and deliberation, a Forrest County jury delivered a guilty verdict in a 2016 murder case on Tuesday afternoon.

Melissa Dawn Cruz was found guilty of first degree murder in relation to a 2016 incident that left one man dead after being struck by Cruz's automobile. Cruz received a life sentence following the verdict.

The incident occurred on the night of Friday, July 1, 2016.  According to investigator Nick Calico of the Forest County Sheriff's Department, authorities received a call at around 9:50 p.m. about a "suspicious person" walking on Old Highway 49. A second call was made later about a man lying in the road bleeding near Old Highway 49.

Deputies found Keith Phillips, 45, dead at the scene. According to Forrest County Deputy Coroner Lisa Klem, Phillips died of internal injuries, possibly caused by being struck by a vehicle.

Deputies found Melissa Dawn Cruz, 45, at the scene, who told investigators she "hit someone" with her vehicle. Through further investigation, deputies determined Cruz intentionally hit Phillips with her vehicle, according to the Sheriff's Dept.

Judge Jon Mark Weathers presided over the trial.