A Biloxi couple has pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges in the alleged robbery and shooting death of a Biloxi man.
Hubert Patrick Anderson, 35, and Rita Olivia Johnston, 36, were each indicted on a charge of capital murder in the March 22 killing of Donta Lashawn Banks, 29.
They pleaded not guilty at their Nov. 7 arraignments. A tentative trial date is Feb. 27.
The investigation began after a Jackson County patrol deputy found Banks dead of a gunshot wound to the head on a dirt road just east of the St. Andrews community. The road connects Cook and Davis streets but has no homes on it.
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The couple is accused of killing Banks and stealing his 2004 Chrysler Pacifica he had just purchased, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell has said.
Biloxi police arrested the couple after they crashed Banks’ vehicle hours after the body was discovered. An officer spotted the stolen van and attempted to stop it, but the driver, later identified as Anderson, kept going.
The minivan later crashed into a home on Lackland Drive off Popp’s Ferry Road — about eight hours after a deputy found Banks body.
Johnston was arrested on a charge of trespassing at the scene of the crash. Anderson ran but was found hiding under a carport of a nearby home. He was arrested on charges of felony fleeing and possessing or receiving stolen property from the Biloxi incident.
At the time of the killing, Anderson also was arrested on a parole warrant for a residential burglary he committed in 2012. He was arrested again that same year on a charge of commercial burglary, but that case was not prosecuted.
Capital murder is a murder committed during the commission of another felony crime, in this case robbery. The punishment can be death or life in prison without parole.
At the time of his death, Banks’ family said they were told Banks had fought hard for his life.
Banks’ cousin, Jamil Owens, told the Sun Herald he had taken Banks to buy his mini-van in the days leading up to the murder.
Owens said it was the first vehicle his cousin had ever owned. Owens even captured some video of a proud Banks with his new ride.
After his killing, Banks’ relatives remembered him as a good man who loved to spend time with children and family.
Owens said Banks was “good-hearted” and “outgoing” and said he was “loved by many people.”
At time of his murder, Banks had been working at Beauvoir Manor apartments in Biloxi.
Both Johnston and Anderson are being held at the Jackson County jail without bond.