Two walk free

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 20, 2011

NATCHEZ — Two of the three men suspected in the 2009 murder and rape of Terry Farmer and the subsequent arson of Farmer’s house now walk free after charges were dropped against them Friday.

District Attorney Ronnie Harper said his office and law enforcement agents have been unable to locate two key witnesses who had previously testified to hearing admissions from former suspects Quinton Smith and Boris Ward, both of Fayette.

“The witnesses (who cannot be located) were essential,” Harper said. “Without them a chance (to convict Smith and Ward) was nonexistent.”

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By dropping the charges, the district attorney’s office reserved the opportunity to refile charges if the witnesses are located or if new evidence is discovered, Harper said.

“Obviously, had we proceeded to trial and not prevailed, as we were convinced was going to happen, we would have been prohibited from retrying these individuals under any circumstances as double jeopardy would attach,” Harper said.

A trial for the third suspect, Willie Duck of Fayette, is still set for Sept. 12. Smith and Ward were previously set to be tried with Duck.

Duck’s pubic attorneys have indicated they intend to go to trial, Harper said. The missing witnesses are not as imperative to Duck’s case, Harper said.

Farmer, 54, was discovered in her burned Shadow Lane house — Aug. 20, 2009, exactly two years ago.

Natchez police patrolling the area around Farmer’s house that morning followed the odor of smoke to Farmer’s house.

Farmer’s body was not discovered until after the fire was extinguished.

Adams County Coroner James Lee said the autopsy revealed Farmer’s cause of death as blunt trauma to the head and a gunshot wound to the head.

Natchez Police investigator Jerry Ford said in October 2010 he had statements from witnesses saying that Duck described, in detail, the events that took place during the hours before, during and after Farmer’s murder, linking all three men to the crime.

Ford also said he had witnesses linking all three men together on the morning after the murder.

All three men initially faced the same charges and were considered to be “acting in concert” with each other.

Harper said the investigation of Smith and Ward will remain ongoing, and no statute of limitations exists on murder.

“I am convinced that this was the proper action to take at this time as it pertains to (Smith and Ward),” Harper said. “Sometimes I am forced to make difficult and distasteful decisions as to certain cases. I do not take this duty lightly.”