Man said he shot his roommate, but that’s not how the roommate died, prosecutor says

Gabriel Benjamin Curtis
Gabriel Benjamin Curtis

A Saucier man who told deputies he’d shot his roommate to death was “a bit mistaken,” Harrison County prosecuting attorney Herman Cox said.

Willis Michael Cassidy Jr., 75, was killed about three weeks ago. But he wasn’t hit by bullets fired from a .38-caliber revolver at his home on Pine Bark Lane, Cox said.

“He was beaten with a revolver later found in the master bedroom, and died of blunt-force trauma to his head, neck and back,” Cox said.

The arrest of Gabriel Benjamin Curtis on charges of murder and felon with a firearm came after a relative contacted the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department. The relative reported Curtis had said on Facebook he’d killed his roommate.

Cassidy lived in a wooded area off U.S. 49 just above East Adams Road. Curtis lived with him, presumably as his caregiver.

Cassidy’s nude body was found early April 21 in woods off Franklin Creek Road in Jackson County, Cox said.

Deputies had gone to Cassidy’s home to check on him late the night before. Curtis wasn’t at the home; he had left in Cassidy’s car and wasn’t answering his phone, sheriff’s Investigator Caleb Mitchell said in an affidavit.

Deputies went inside to check on Cassidy and saw drag marks coming from the master bedroom, as well as blood spatter on a wall and blood on a blanket, the affidavit said. They found more blood in the master bathroom, and a dead dog.

“I don’t know if the dog died of a heart attack or what, but the dog hadn’t been shot, either,” Cox said.

Curtis returned home as investigators were searching, and confessed to shooting Cassidy and disposing of his body, according to the affidavit, and that he had used a Smith & Wesson revolver, which he’d left on the sink in the master bathroom.

$1,025,000 bond

Curtis led officials to the body. He had used Cassidy’s car to dispose of it, Cox said. Inside the car, investigators said, they found a tarp and bloody clothes and tennis shoes believed to belong to Cassidy.

It was first believed Cassidy had died of a gunshot wound to the chest. An autopsy showed no evidence of gunshot wounds, Coroner Gary Hargrove said.

“There were six rounds in the revolver, and five expended cases were found,” Cox said. “There were two bullet holes in the sofa. Maybe the defendant fired at the victim on the sofa and thought he had shot him.”

A motive for the killing hasn’t been released.

Curtis is held on $1,025,000 bond.

He is a felon with a 2013 burglary conviction in Harrison County; that’s the basis for the firearm charge.

Curtis’ petition for a court-appointed attorney says he is single, has no children and no income.

The criminal case has been turned over to the next grand jury.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews