Man arrested after Ja’Naya Thompson’s killing gets prison for unrelated sex crimes

Julian Gray
Julian Gray

The man once considered a person of interest in the killing and sexual assault of 5-year-old Ja’Naya Thompson in 2014 has been sentenced to prison on an unrelated sexual assault and for having child pornography.

Julian Casper Gray III, 34, of Gulfport, was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison, with 10 years suspended and 20 years to serve day for day without early release or parole.

District Attorney Joel Smith said the sexual assault victim was Gray’s former girlfriend and the child porn was found on Gray’s cellphone during the Ja’Naya investigation. A grand jury found insufficient evidence to indict Gray in connection with Ja’Naya’s disappearance, sexual assault and death by strangulation.

Gray had more than 100 sexually-explicit videos of children on his phone when his apartment and cellphone were searched during the investigation of the child’s death, Smith said.

Gray pleaded guilty in Harrison County Circuit Court on Thursday to forcible sexual intercourse and exploitation of a child, which is the state’s charge for child pornography.

Smith said Judge Roger Clark sentenced Gray on guilty pleas. Clark also ordered five years of post-release supervision for Gray, who must register as a sex offender the rest of his life.

Gray had become a person of interest in Ja’Naya’s killing early in that investigation.

During the investigation, Gray’s former girlfriend alleged he forced himself on her in March 2014, four months before Ja’Naya was found dead July 17.

The woman did not report her sexual assault at the time, and broke up with Gray four months later, said Chief ADA Crosby Parker, who prosecuted the case.

A grand jury indicted Gray on four counts of exploitation and one count each of forcible sexual intercourse and sexual battery. Police had arrested Gray on July 18, 2017, after speaking with his ex-girlfriend.

Alberto Garcia had implicated Gray as Ja’Naya’s abductor after the child disappeared from her home at The Palms apartments off Klein Road. Garcia and Gray were neighbors at the apartment complex.

Garcia, who is on death row, was sentenced in January to the capital murder of the Gulfport girl whose disappearance in July 16, 2014, grabbed the hearts and support of people who didn’t know her.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews