Crime

Man who killed Ole Miss student from Gulfport will be put to death

Steven Matthew “Matt” Wilbanks, foreground, escorted by Lafayette County chief investigator Alan Wilburn, left, and deputy chief Scott Mills, leaves the Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford on Thursday. Wilbanks, who was found guilty of capital murder for the 2013 shooting death of Zacharias Hercules McClendon on Tuesday, was sentenced to deathon Thursday.
Steven Matthew “Matt” Wilbanks, foreground, escorted by Lafayette County chief investigator Alan Wilburn, left, and deputy chief Scott Mills, leaves the Lafayette County Courthouse in Oxford on Thursday. Wilbanks, who was found guilty of capital murder for the 2013 shooting death of Zacharias Hercules McClendon on Tuesday, was sentenced to deathon Thursday. Oxford Eagle

Two days after being convicted of capital murder, Steven Matthew “Matt” Wilbanks was sentenced to death in the killing of an Ole Miss student from Gulfport, the Oxford Eagle reported Thursday.

According to the Eagle, the jury deliberated for just over four hours Thursday before sentencing Wilbanks, one of three men connected to the 2013 shooting death of Gulfport native Zacharias “Zach” Hercules McClendon.

Wilbanks admitted to investigators in 2013 that he pulled the trigger, fatally shooting McClendon in his Oxford apartment.

According to the Eagle, Wilbanks showed “little emotion” as the verdict was read in court.

Joseph Lyons and Derrick Boone previously pleaded guilty and are serving life sentences. The Eagle reported Wilbanks was not offered a plea deal.

McClendon was a 2006 Gulfport High graduate and honor student who aspired to work in the medical field. He earned undergraduate degrees from Williams College in Massachusetts and Mississippi College and was pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from Ole Miss. He had been accepted into the University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson, according to family.

According to previous reports, McClendon was a neighbor of the three men, who plotted to steal from the Coast native on Dec. 18, 2013, while he was doing dishes in his kitchen.

After killing McClendon, the three men stole his 2004 Nissan, clothes, electronics and textbooks, according to testimony.

Prior to Thursday’s sentencing there were 45 individuals currently on death row, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections website.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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