Police Monday found the bodies of a Mississippi family of three missing since Valentine’s Day and charged the father’s cousin with murder. He is suspected of killing the father, mother and four-year-old child in a dispute over a will.
“It’s awful. You deal with bad stuff all the time but rarely where the whole family was killed,” said District Attorney James Powell.
Murder, in itself, is a senseless act and is even more so when it involves family. And murders, like the recent ones in Meadows of Dan, can put a community of edge.
Thankfully, a community like Floyd doesn’t have to deal with murder that often. At our other home (the Washington, DC, metro area), murder is a daily affair. The Nation’s Capital is often called “the murder capital of the world,” averaging a violent, senseless death a day.
In 1964, as a young correspondent for the Roanoke Times, I covered a rare murder trial in Floyd. A local woman had moved “up north” and married, but left her husband and returned to the county. Her husband came to Floyd to get her and she blew him away with her daddy’s 12-guage.
At the trial, she claimed self-defense, although her estranged husband was sitting in a chair and watching TV when she shot him in the back of the head. The jury came back with a verdict of second-degree manslaughter with a recommendation for leniency.
But circuit judge W. Southall Jordan wouldn’t accept the verdict.
“In the Commonwealth of Virginia, juries don’t make sentencing recommendations,” he told the jury. “Go back and give me a straight verdict.”
The jury returned 15 minutes later with a not guilty verdict.
“You have to understand,” Jordan told me after the trial. “She’s a local girl and he weren’t from around here.”
Back then, that was justice, Floyd County style. Had the trial been held today, however, the jury could — and would — have determined the sentence.