He beat to death 4 Coast family members at age 16. Now he’s won a new sentencing.

He killed his family with baseball bats when he was 16 years old, but as he approaches 40, the prison sentence of Stephen Virgil McGilberry remains unresolved.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a jury should resentence McGilberry. Circuit Court Judge Robert Krebs had resentenced McGilberry in April 2017 to life without parole.

A return to Circuit Court would result in McGilberry’s fourth sentencing.

A Jackson County jury originally sentenced McGilberry to death for the 1994 murders of his mother, Patricia “Pat” Purifoy, stepfather Kenneth Purifoy, half-sister Kimberly Self and her 3-year-old son Kristopher. He was mad because he had been grounded and was not allowed to use the family car, he said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 found the death penalty unconstitutional for those under 18, McGilberry was resentenced to four consecutive life terms without parole.

In 2012, the Supreme Court decided anyone under 18 could not be automatically sentenced to life without parole. McGilberry was back in court in 2017, arguing that a new sentence should offer him the possibility of parole and a jury should decide the sentence.

Krebs instead resentenced McGilberry to life without parole, finding he had expressed no remorse for the brutal murders and had chalked up 23 rules violations in prison. The appellate court said Krebs erred in doing so because a jury has sole authority to sentence McGilberry in the capital murder case.

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Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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