STARKVILLE • A Prentiss County man could be facing the death penalty after an Oktibbeha County grand jury indicted him for killing and sexually assaulting two Starkville women in 1990.

“We have not made a decision whether we will pursue the death penalty,” said Scott Colom, District Attorney for the 16th Circuit Court District.

Michael Wayne Devaughn, 52, of Jumpertown, was indicted Tuesday for the capital murder of Betty Jones and the sexual assault of Kathryn Crigler. Under state law, the only penalty options for capital murder are death or life without parole.

Devaughn is accused of entering Crigler’s Highway 182 Starkville house on the evening of Sept. 3, 1990. Police say that shortly after Jones, 65, answered the door, her throat was slashed and she bled to death on the spot. Devaughn then raped and brutally assaulted Crigler, 81. She survived to call 911. She was transported to the Oktibbeha County Hospital where rape evidence was gathered. Crigler died from her injuries about two months later.

At the time, the Oktibbeha coroner said Crigler’s death was a direct result of the attack and ruled her cause of death as homicide. But the recent grand jury was not as willing to make the connection.

Devaughn is not facing any charges for Crigler’s death. Citing the secrecy laws surrounding grand juries, Colom refused to say if the grand jury was asked to consider murder or manslaughter charges.

“I can’t say anything specifically about the grand jury or any deliberations,” Colom said. “When it comes to (charges for Crigler’s death), you have to be able to tie the death to something that Mr. Devaughn did that night.”

Colom said that Devaughn is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. At the same time, officials will set the date for the trial.

Devaughn was able to elude murder charges for more than 28 years, but he was not able to escape modern technology.

He had never been a suspect until advanced DNA testing, specifically genetic genealogy, put police on his trail last summer. In early 2018, Starkville police detective Lt. Bill Lott sent the suspect’s DNA profile to Parabon, a private genetics company, to compare the sample to a public genealogy DNA database looking for people with similar DNA profiles who might be kin to the suspect. That eventually led authorities to look at Devaughn.

Lott and other investigators had to start looking into Devaughn’s past for things that might tie him to the crime and to Starkville. They also had to secretly get a sample of his DNA to compare to the suspect profile. That was made easier, since Devaughn was sitting in the Tishomingo County Jail on an unrelated drug charge.

In early October 2018, Devaughn was transported to Starkville where he was charged charged with capital murder and sexual assault. He has remained in the Oktibbeha County Jail on a total bond of $11 million ever since.

william.moore@journalinc.com Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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