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Pregnant inmate’s request for bond reduction denied

NATCHEZ — A bond reduction for a pregnant Adams County murder suspect was denied Friday morning in Circuit Court with Judge Debra W. Blackwell presiding.

Defense attorney Cynthia Stewart said she petitioned for the $200,000 bond set for Jessica Aldridge, 32, to be reduced and that she be placed under house arrest on the grounds that Aldridge is considered indigent, is 16-weeks pregnant and could have a higher risk of severe illness than other inmates if she is exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Aldridge was arrested on March 17, 2019, on a first-degree murder charge for allegedly shooting and killing her boyfriend, Joseph Cupit, 41, on Benbrook Road.

Adams County nurse practitioner Raven Campbell testified Friday that Aldridge claimed to have other health conditions making her a high-risk pregnancy patient. However, those conditions had not been verified through medical examinations.

The audience at Friday’s hearing was restricted to fewer than five members each from the defendant and victim’s family along with witnesses, court officials and media in order to keep the court in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations, Blackwell said.

Stewart said that Aldridge waived her right to attend the bond hearing out of concern for her being exposed to the virus in weakened health conditions.

Adams County Sheriff’s office officials testified that every person entering the jail answers health screening questions, including new inmates and employees, and that inmates are provided with sufficient antibacterial wipes and sanitizers in compliance with CDC regulations.

Officials also said that the transport vehicle that would be used to take Aldridge to medical appointments is also cleaned daily.

Blackwell said she heard a lot of evidence on Friday about Aldridge’s physical health but none relating to her moral character and whether she would honor restrictions placed on her if she were put under house arrest.

“This is a crime of violence and a $200,000 bond is a reasonable bond for a murder charge,” Blackwell said of her decision to deny the motion for a bond reduction.

Blackwell said towns with the fewest number of COVID-19 cases acted quickly to keep their residents at home and by limiting their exposure to large groups of people.

“It seems it is in the best interest of Ms. Aldridge and her unborn baby to leave her where she is,” Blackwell said, adding another bond hearing could be scheduled once new information is provided about other health concerns.