By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Verina Childs was found guilty of the murder of her husband, Douglas Childs, who she was accused of shooting in the back while they were hunting on the morning of Nov. 22, 2009.
A jury returned with a verdict shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday evening, after deliberating for two hours.
Judge Lee Howard sentenced Childs to life in prison and she was immediately taken into custody.
Thursday marked the fourth day of testimony heard by the jury.
In her official statements to police, Childs said she and her husband decided to go out hunting early that morning at a nearby hunting club. When they arrived, they set up in separate parts of a wooded area. She said before long, her stomach began to hurt, and she decided to return home to use the bathroom. She said that she sent a text to Douglas to tell him that she was leaving — which police later noted was sent at 7:07 a.m. — walked back to the truck and left. When she arrived home, she said she decided not to go back out, but to stay and clean her home to prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and texted Douglas to tell him so. It was shortly thereafter a friend knocked at her door, asked Childs to come with her, and she found out her husband was dead.
However, an eyewitness, Dale Parker, who was hunting on a hill nearby said that a few minutes after 7 a.m., he heard a gunshot, followed by a man screaming “Oh God, no!” A few minutes later, he said he saw someone emerge from the wooded area and walk towards the road. Although he could not confirm whether the person was male or female, he said he noticed the individual had long, bushy brown hair that was pulled back in a ponytail. Parker said he waited a few minutes and decided to called a friend who was a member of the hunting club, Richard Ashmore, to tell him what he had seen and ask him what he should do. According to his cellphone, which was inspected by police, that call was made at 7:09 a.m.
Commander Brett Watson of the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department said Childs’ account simply did not match with Parker’s testimony and the timeline set up with the help of the cellphone records. Parker and several other hunters in the area said they all heard the gunshot right around 7 a.m. That would mean Childs’ still would have been in the area if she did in fact leave at 7:07 a.m., yet she stated that she never heard the shot, Watson said. He said he believed Childs’ shot and killed her husband, and then sent the text messages.
The forensic pathologist who completed Douglas Childs’ autopsy, Amy Gerzeki, said he was killed by one bullet, which struck him in the upper left back, pierced his lung and heart. The injuries caused him the bleed to death internally, which would have taken roughly a minute, she said. Despite the injuries, she said Douglas likely would have been able to yell out.
A bullet was retrieved from the body and sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab the following day for ballistics testing. Brian MacIntyre, who preformed the testing, said that he could say with 100 percent certainty the bullet that killed Douglas Childs and been fired by the rifle Verina Childs had used that day while hunting.
The defense only called one witness to the stand, Johnathan M. Coker, Childs’ son.
Coker, who was 15 years old at the time of the murder, said he had woken up shortly before his mother returned home from hunting, approximately between 7:10 and 7:20 a.m. He said a number of people came to their house throughout the day, and he remembered his mother’s rifle being in a different position than it was as it was later photographed by police.
When the jury came back with a guilty verdict, Sara Jo Jones, the victim’s sister, said she and her family were very relieved.
“We’re elated. God has answered every prayer that we’ve had. Without him, we wouldn’t be here,” Jones said. “We’re just so thankful to everybody. I pray for Verina and her family because they’re going to be going through a hard time, too. So, we pray for them.”