HED: Testimony begins in Charles Ross murder trial
By Jane Clark Summers
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
RIPLEY - Charles Wayne Ross' sister, Margaret Jones, testified Tuesday that her brother told her he killed Hershal Ray Yancey on the night of June 28, 1996.
Ross, whose criminal record includes armed bank robbery and grand larceny, is being tried in Tippah County Circuit Court on charges of capital murder and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon in connection with the shooting death of Yancey.
Margaret Jones, 34, said her half-brother confessed he had shot a man between the eyes and that he kept on shooting him.
She said her brother left at about 8:30 or 9 p.m. and returned with a TV and VCR to the trailer she shared with her boyfriend at about 11:30 p.m.
He showed her a billfold containing what she thought was a driver's license on which she made out the middle and last name of Ray Yancey, she said.
Ross told her the victim usually had $1,000-$1,200 on him but that he had only $5 that night, Jones said.
She said she watched her brother burn the wallet on a charcoal grill in the yard.
Jones said she saw Ross retrieve a pistol from under the seat of his car and toss it down a hill in to the weeds behind the trailer. She said she later learned the pistol had been stolen from her boyfriend. Lawmen later recovered the .22-caliber pistol believed used in the crime.
In his opening statement, Jim Pannell said the defendant's sister is placing blame on Ross in an effort to cover up for her son, Jerry Sanders, and nephew, Donald Ross Jr., "who are the people who killed Yancey."
In laying out his case, District Attorney Jim Hood said the state will prove that Yancey normally had a large amount of cash on his person on pay day.
Physical evidence includes shards of a broken tail light found in the victim's driveway that match the defendant's car and some special edition cans of beer found in Ross' car that will be linked to the murder scene, Hood said.
A panel of seven men, six women and three alternate jurors were seated Monday. In addition to Jones, five other state witnesses took the stand Tuesday including the victim's mother, Marie Yancey; his friend and co-worker, Dennis McCollum; neighbor and postal carrier, Linda Gray; former Tippah County Chief Deputy Wayne Wilbanks; and Tommy Hale, who was Margaret Jones' boyfriend at the time.
Marie Yancey, who got up at 5 a.m. each day to cook her son's breakfast, went to his house across the road from hers when he didn't come over to eat on June 29, 1997. She found his body slumped over on the couch.
Pinpointing the time of the crime, Yancey and Gray both testified about hearing a loud car on the road at about 9:30 p.m.
Gray said the dark-colored car with a broken right tail light pulled into her yard where she observed a small person raise the hood and work on the engine before heading in the direction of the Yancey residences.
Gray could not identify the suspect as the defendant, who is also small in stature, because it was too dark, she said.
Wilbanks, now police chief at Walnut, said when Ross' black Cougar was seized by lawmen, it contained specially labeled Olympic beer cans that matched one found at the victim's house.
He said the car also had a broken tail light that appeared to match broken lens found in the victim's driveway.
Wilbanks said he also recovered a piece of electrical cord at the murder scene. The frayed end of the cord appeared to match the frayed cord on the television recovered at the Hale residence.
McCollum said he drove Yancey home from work the day he was killed. The two stopped at a store in Dumas to cash their checks but the store had enough money to cash only McCollum's check, he said.
McCollum recalled that Ross had once worked with Yancey at Waco in the past. Wilbanks said Yancey's check was found inside a glass vase in his house.
If convicted, the 51-year-old former construction worker, could receive the death penalty. Since he was indicted as a habitual offender, he would not be eligible for parole if he gets the lesser sentence of life in prison.
If the jury finds there is reasonable doubt, they can acquit him. Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. today.