Crime

Family of slain Vancleave teen devastated after cousin arrested

JACKSON COUNTY -- A teen has been arrested in the killing of a 16-year-old from Vancleave found dead Thursday night in the woods behind his grandmother's home, Sheriff Mike Ezell said.

Dexter Mandoza Kelley, 19, is being held at the Jackson County jail on a murder charge in the killing of Cliff Allyn.

Kelley is Allyn's cousin, a family member said.

"It is just a shame that a family has to go through this and a child lost his life way before his time," Delbert Sledge, the boyfriend of Allyn's mother, said Friday. "This is devastating to everyone involved. There are so many emotions everyone is going through right now and we are all just trying to stay strong and think of all the wonderful parts of Cliff's life and the joy he brought to everyone that had a chance to know him and love him."

Sheriff's K-9s found Allyn's body about 5:45 p.m. Thursday after an intense search through a thickly wooded area behind the home off Jim Ramsey Road on Nanny Road.

Allyn, a freshman at Vancleave High School, was reported missing Wednesday by his mother, Jennifer Smith.

He was last seen playing basketball with his cousins, including Kelley, about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The teens told family members they went inside for about 15 minutes and Allyn was gone when they returned.

Investigators arrested Kelley after obtaining search warrants for homes on the property, which included the grandmother's house and a mobile home where other relatives lived, Ezell said.

During the search, "we found some evidence that led to the arrests," Ezell said.

Because of the ongoing investigation, he would not elaborate on the evidence investigators seized that he said linked Kelley to the crime.

Kelley had recently moved from Meridian to Vancleave, Ezell said, and investigators are still looking into his background as part of the probe.

"He'd been there about three weeks," the sheriff said.

An initial court appearance for Kelley will likely be next week, Ezell said. Until then, Kelley will remain jailed without bond.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus said an autopsy is pending.

A GoFundMe.com account has been set up to help Allyn's family with funeral expenses. The goal is to raise $5,000 and as of midday Friday, 59 people have donated a total of $2,460.

To report information in the investigation, call the Jackson County Sheriff's Department at 769-3063 or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-877-787-5898. Rewards of up to $1,000 are available for information leading to an arrest.

Check back with sunherald.com for updates to this story.

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