Dismembered body hidden in Greene County culvert, witness testifies

Donovan Cowart
Donovan Cowart

Donovan Cowart didn’t know he was standing over his own makeshift grave when an alleged gang member shot him in the face from about 10 yards away, according to trial testimony Tuesday.

The shotgun blast thrust the 27-year-old’s body forward until he fell into the grave dug for him days before on property belonging to accused shooter Welford Levi “Pork Chop” McCarty, 37, on Buddy Grey Road in rural Greene County.

That’s how witnesses described the killing Tuesday in McCarty’s trial on charges of capital murder and desecration of a human corpse in Cowart’s January 2013 killing.

He wanted Cowart dead, witnesses said, because he thought his former friend had become a snitch. McCarty is accused of being a member of both the Southern Brotherhood, an Alabama-based white-supremacist prison gang, and Simon City Royals, a gang started in 1950s Chicago that spread to the Deep South, including the Mississippi Coast. McCarty, Cowart and others were said to be heavily involved in drugs, primarily methamphetamines.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department investigator Lt. Jeff Smith says that there are gangs in Jackson County, but law enforcement has it under control. However, he said that when they do commit serious crimes, they tend to be very violent. He also

On the day of the killing, McCarty and some of his friends — including co-defendant and alleged fellow gang member Robert Virgil Stephens — picked up Cowart from a home in Greene County and drove him to McCarty’s property, a witness said.

McCarty stopped the car about 30 yards from the makeshift grave, according to testimony, then urged Cowart to go take a look at the hole.

An eyewitness said McCarty walked to the trunk of his car, pulled out a shotgun and whistled, and fired just as Cowart turned around.

Though Cowart’s family reported him missing the same month he was killed, they would wait more than two years to find out what happened to him.

In May 2015, former George County deputy Ben Brown said the sheriff’s department received a tip that would lead them to Cowart’s remains.

By then, Cowart’s body had been dug up, chopped up and placed in five black trash bags wrapped in a tarp with cinder blocks in it to weigh it down. The tarp had been tied and wedged under a culvert overlooking a beaver pond on Double Branch Road in Greene County about three weeks after the murder, Stephens testified.

There is plenty of water in these hills. They (law enforcement) will never find it.

Alicia Keel, describing what McCarty told her in 2013

Stephens said he dug up the body and dismembered it with an ax because McCarty thought authorities would search his property, and because McCarty threatened “that people I care about could get hurt.”

Stephens said they placed the wrapped and weighted remains in the trunk of a car. He said the tarp wouldn’t sink in the pond so McCarty pulled out a .22-gauge long rifle and shot it a couple of times thinking that would make it sink, but it didn’t.

Stephens said he was instructed to go in the water and move it under the culvert. He said he wedged the tarp under a tree limb, along with the ax he’d used to dismember the remains.

Defense attorney Scott Johnson questioned Stephens’ credibility, noting to jurors that Stephens had entered into a plea deal to testify in exchange for serving from 20 to 30 full years for capital murder in Cowart’s killing.

Alicia Keel, a former long-term meth addict, testified she knew Cowart growing up.

In February 2013, she said she was sitting in a car with McCarty while he was smoking some meth. He told her he shot Cowart in the face because he thought he was a snitch, she said.

He told her he’d buried the body on his property and planned to dismember it and move it and sink it.

“There is plenty of water in these hills,” she recalled McCarty saying. “They (law enforcement) will never find it.”

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45