Jackson County

Defendant admits to police he robbed Bullock before his death

Capital murder suspect Rodney Phillip McKenzie Jr admitted to a detective in a taped interview that he and a co-defendant in the case robbed Johnny M. Bullock prior to his killing.

"By the end of it," McKenzie said, "he (Bullock) was dead."

At first, McKenzie denied any involvement in the Aug. 10, 2010, shooting death of Bullock, a 67-year-old professional dog groomer and breeder. Later he fingered his co-defendant, Daniel Lamont Hatten, as the triggerman. Hatten is awaiting trial on the same charge.

McKenzie said the robbery was over prescription Lortab, which were found in his pants pocket at the time of his arrest. In addition, police early-on found Bullock's empty prescription bottle smeared with his own blood in a medicine cabinet at McKenzie's apartment.

Interviewing McKenzie at the time of the interview was Pascagoula police Detective David Sepulveda, who is seriously ill and was unable to make it to court this morning to testify.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said Sepulveda's deposition was taken earlier because of his medical condition. The deposition was played for the jury earlier today.

Defense attorney Richard Conant objected to using the deposition at trial, but Circuit Court Judge Robert Krebs pointed out that both the defense attorneys and McKenzie were present at the time. The defense questioned the detective then.

Prosecutors contend Bullock was killed during a robbery gone wrong. The defense argues McKenzie shot Bullock after he asked for a sexual favor in exchange for the pills. In the taped interview, McKenzie does not mention any alleged sexual advance.

However, in the detective's taped deposition, he tells prosecutors that a caretaker at Bullock's home said that Bullock would trade prescription pills for sex with men.

The Sun Herald updates this story as details develop.