Crime

Couple charged with capital murder after body found near St. Andrews

Hubert Anderson, left, and Rita O. Johnston are accused of capital murder in the death of Donta Banks.
Hubert Anderson, left, and Rita O. Johnston are accused of capital murder in the death of Donta Banks.

JACKSON COUNTY -- A couple accused of stealing and crashing a homicide victim's mini-van are now accused of capital murder in the killing of Donta Lashaw Banks.

Sheriff Mike Ezell on Wednesday identified Banks, 29, of Roy Street in Biloxi, as the man found dead Tuesday on a dirt road just east of the St. Andrews community. A deputy on patrol found the body Tuesday morning.

Accused in Banks' slaying are Hubert Patrick Anderson, 35, and Rita Olivia Johnston, 36.

They killed Banks and stole a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica he had recently bought, Ezell said.

Their arrests came after the mini-van crashed Tuesday night in Biloxi.

"We are pleased arrests have been made," Ezell.

"One of our investigators has gone to Jackson to be there for the autopsy," he said. "We are going through evidence as we continue to work on this case very heavily.

Jamil Owens, a cousin of Banks, said the family is devastated.

"We've been told he put up a fight," Owens said. "But that's all we know."

"In our family, we (cousins) were raised like brothers and sisters. I feel like my little brother's life has been taken."

Owens said he had recently taken Banks to buy his mini-van.

"We came back to the house and I made a video of him standing by it," Owens said. "It was his first vehicle he'd ever owned and he paid for it with the money he had worked for."

Mini-van disappeared

Banks' remains were found between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Tuesday, the day of their grandmother's birthday.

His body was literally on the dirt road, Ezell said. There are no homes on the unpaved road, which connects Cook and Davis streets.

Investigators identified Banks as the victim and learned he'd just bought a mini-van, which was missing. They alerted area police.

Crash led to arrests

A Biloxi police officer later spotted the mini-van and tried to stop it, but the vehicle sped off, Ezell said.

The mini-van crashed into a house on Lackland Drive off Popp's Ferry Road about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Johnston was taken to Merit Health Biloxi for treatment of injuries and was then taken to the Jackson County jail. She is held on charges of capital murder and trespassing. She has no bond on the capital murder charge.

Anderson ran from the crash scene but was found under a carport at a Popp's Ferry Road home, Ezell said.

Biloxi police arrested Anderson on charges of felony fleeing and possessing or receiving stolen property. His bonds total $150,000.

Anderson was booked at the Harrison County jail.

Felon on parole

Anderson is held with no bond on a parole warrant. His parole involves his conviction in a residential burglary committed in 2012. He was arrested the same year on a commercial burglary charge but was not prosecuted on that charge.

He is held for Jackson County on a capital murder charge.

Capital murder is a charge involving a slaying that occurs during another felony crime. It's punishable by death or life in prison without parole.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Sgt. J. Smith at (228) 762-3016.

Banks loved kids

Banks loved spending time with children and family, his cousin said.

Banks lived with his girlfriend, whose children who had become attached to him, Owens said.

"He had promised to take the kids to buy snowballs today," he said. "They came in today asking when he would take them."

Owens described Banks as good-hearted, outgoing and "loved by many people." He said Banks had most recently worked for Beauvoir Manor apartments in Biloxi.

Many questions

Owens said his family has many questions about Banks' slaying.

"We don't know how he knew them (the suspects) or even if he knew them," he said. "We don't even know what he was doing in Jackson County."

"We were told he put up a good fight. He fought for his life.

"He was not the violent type, but he was scared of nothing. He didn't go out looking for a fight but he wasn't scared to fight. We were taught to stand the ground we walk on, live or die."

Sun Herald staff writers Karen Nelson and Wesley Muller contributed to this report.

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