utopian

Cases dismissed for 5 connected to murder

Published 12:06am Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NATCHEZ — Five of the seven people previously indicted by an Adams County grand jury in connection with an August 2011 murder outside the Natchez Mall had their cases dismissed last month because of insufficient evidence.

Lee Raymond Smith Jr., 19, Latravis K. Clay, 23, and Shakeria Vaneicia Clay, 20, were indicted by an Adams County grand jury in March for murder in connection with the shooting death of 25-year-old Walter Washington.

Antonio K. Clay, 21, Calvin Kentrell Matthews, 28, Brandon Collins, 24, and Venisha Lashay Noble, 23, were indicted on charges of being an accessory after the fact to the murder.

The cases for Venisha Noble, Brandon Collins, Clavin Matthews, Antonio Clay and Shakira Clay were dismissed Nov. 22 because of insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

District Six District Attorney Ronnie Harper said the case has been a difficult one for law enforcement to work because of misinformation and reluctance of some to cooperate.

“We just made the decision to basically dismiss without prejudice based on the evaluation of the facts we have now,” Harper said. “We’re satisfied that we have got the information or the facts as they’ve come down, and that the people we still charged are the culpable parties in this thing.”

The cases for Lee Raymond Smith and Latravis Clay remain active.

A trial date for Lee Raymond Smith was previously scheduled to begin Nov. 25, but Joe Hollomon of Joe M. Hollomon & Associates of Jackson, who is representing Lee Raymond Smith in the case, was granted a continuance.

Latravis Clay is being held in Concordia Parish after being arrested in August by Ferriday Police Department in connection with a July murder in Ferriday.

Harper said he’s not aware of a new trial date set for the Lee Raymond Smith, but said he’s prepared for the day in court.

“We anticipate some of the others will not assist us in being able to get a conviction in these charges,” Harper said. “It’s been a difficult case, needless to say, but we feel satisfied with where we are now.”

Natchez Police Detective Jerry Ford said in March Washington was killed while walking to his car in the mall parking lot. Smith reportedly shot from another vehicle.

Ford said Datarrius Matthews, Collins and Latravis Clay were reportedly in the vehicle with Smith when the crime occurred.

Datarrius Matthews is not being indicted in the murder because he is cooperating with police, Ford said.

Smith, Calvin Matthews, Datarrius Matthews, Latravis Clay, Antonio Clay and Shakeria Clay are siblings, Ford said.

Shakeria reportedly called her brothers and told them Washington was at the mall before the shooting occurred.

Noble was reportedly the girlfriend of Antonio K. Clay at the time and allegedly hid Antonio and possibly others in her apartment after the murder, Ford said.

Calvin Matthews reportedly met his brothers at Noble’s apartment after the murder and discussed getting rid of evidence, Ford said. Washington’s murder was intended as retaliation, Ford said, for the February 2011 shooting of Calvin Matthews at Club Paradise, for which Washington was charged. Calvin was hospitalized for more than a week for two gunshot wounds to the chest, one to the lower torso and one to the leg.

Collins’ reported address of 104 Dumas Drive is the same residence that was allegedly the target of a drive-by shooting that occurred a few hours after the mall murder.

Collins is currently serving the remainder of an 11-year sentence for aggravated assault in the state penitentiary.

Adams County Circuit Court documents indicate Collins was found in violation of his post-release supervision in September 2011 and ordered to serve the remaining 10 years of his sentence.