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Ferriday man sentenced to life for 2019 slaying of Natchez schoolteacher

VIDALIA — A Ferriday man was sentenced to life in prison Monday after being convicted of first-degree murder in a Nov. 9-10 trial for the June 2019 slaying of a Natchez schoolteacher.

Jimmy O’Neal Lewis, 49, was sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence, at the Concordia Parish Courthouse Monday for the first-degree murder of Fredrick McCray Jr., said Brad Burget, district attorney.

Burget said jurors convicted Lewis after hearing evidence during the Nov. 9-10 trial with 7th Judicial District Judge John Reeves presiding. The evidence included Lewis’ confession to being involved in the June 2019 armed robbery during which McCray, then a Natchez schoolteacher, was shot and killed by a single gunshot wound, Burget said.

“During the commission of the armed robbery, Mr. Lewis pulled a … Glock pistol and shot Mr. McCray,” Burget said.

McCray’s body was reportedly found on the morning of June 24, 2019, in Ferriday hidden under a pile of wood next to an abandoned building near Bayou Levee Road and Huntington Stadium Fisherman Drive.

McCray had been missing since the Sunday before.

Law officials said McCray gave two suspects a ride in his car that Sunday when he was shot and later died of the single gunshot wound.

“This young man, now deceased, was an outstanding citizen of Concordia Parish,” said David Hedrick, Concordia Parish Sheriff, after McCray’s body was found.

Cedric Tennessee, a second suspect in McCray’s killing, is scheduled for a jury trial on Dec. 14 on a second-degree murder charge, Burget said.

At the time of his murder, McCray was an eighth-grade technology teacher at Morgantown Middle School.

He was named Teacher of the Year by Natchez Adams School District in 2019 after he had just completed his first year of teaching. He held two master’s degrees and was pursuing a doctoral degree when he died, Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald said soon after she learned of McCray’s killing.

“He was an amazing teacher,” McDonald said. “He had a commanding presence in his classroom and established a solid relationship with his students and with colleagues. … The entire NASD family mourns the loss of Mr. McCray.”

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