Harrison County

Man pleads guilty to killing man with special needs

After a mistrial in October, a man accused of beating a person with special needs to death pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of first-degree murder.

Johnny Owens III, 44, pleaded guilty in the killing of Larry Johnson, 50, on the day his second trial was scheduled to begin.

Owens was sentenced to life in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections by Judge Lisa Dodson.

Johnson died in February 2013 after he was assaulted by Owens at a residence in Harrison County. Johnson and Owens lived in a boarding-house arrangement in a mobile home on Robinson Road.

First responders went to the house on an aggravated assault call and found Robinson unresponsive on the floor. He was transported to a hospital and died there the next day.

Assistant District Attorney Robert McCormick said an autopsy showed that Johnson died from blunt force trauma, which caused a massive hemorrhage in his brain.

In the original trial, a witness said Owens stomped on Johnson’s head. Johnson had been hit by a train in Waveland about 17 years before his death, his family told the Sun Herald. He suffered neurological damage and had recently come to terms with his disability before he was killed, they said.

During the October trial, the jury could not return a unanimous verdict and Dodson declared it a mistrial.

Justin Mitchell and Robin Fitzgerald contributed to this report.