Alleged gang member Welford Levi “Pork Chop” McCarty lost his freedom last week when he received a life sentence plus three years for the March 2013 shooting death and dismemberment of a man he thought was a snitch in Greene County.
But McCarty could face an even stiffer prison sentence if he goes to trial in May along with Robert Virgil Stephens in the alleged gang- and drug-related slaying of a man in George County.
McCarty and Stephens are accused in the killing of Joshua Gautier in George County three months after McCarty killed Donovan Cowart in Greene County.
McCarty was handcuffed and whisked out of a Greene County courtroom after a jury convicted him of murdering Cowart, an alleged meth cook who was missing for more than two years before authorities got a tip that would lead to his remains.
McCarty and Stephens are said to be members of the Southern Brotherhood, an Alabama-based white-supremacist gang, and the Simon City Royals, a street gang that started in Chicago in the 1950s and spread to other cities, including along the Mississippi Coast.
Stephens testified against McCarty in the capital murder trial in Cowart’s death. He said McCarty shot and killed Cowart, who fell into a makeshift grave on McCarty’s property. At McCarty’s demand, Stephens said, he later dug up Cowart’s remains, chopped them up, weighted them down in a tarp and stuffed them under a culvert overlooking a beaver pond in Greene County.
Stephens is expected to plead guilty to capital murder in that killing later this year. In exchange for his testimony against McCarty in that case, the government has recommended Stephens serve from 20 to 30 years in prison.
A grand jury had indicted McCarty in the March 2013 slaying of Gautier, but the charge was dismissed in July 2014 after a witness changed her testimony.
District Attorney Tony Lawrence said at the time he believed the witness had recanted her testimony because of possible threats. Another grand jury later indicted McCarty and Stephens on the new murder charge in Gautier’s killing.
Some workers discovered Gautier’s remains March 24, 2013, on a remote dirt road known to locals in rural George County as the pipelines.
An autopsy revealed Gautier had been shot to death within 24 hours of his body’s discovery.
Will the trial proceed?
The district attorney said he plans to talk with Gautier’s family before the prosecutors decide whether to go to trial in Gautier’s killing.
“Since McCarty was sentenced to life without parole for the capital murder of Donovan Cowart in Greene County,” Lawrence said, “we need to undertake a thorough evaluation of the case and (have a) discussion with the (Gautier) family before proceeding further with the prosecution of the George County case.”
So for now, the case remains set for trial, but prosecutors told the families of both victims up front they planned to take Cowart’s case to trial first.
A major consideration for Lawrence before proceeding to trial in Gautier’s killing is the lengthy prison sentence Stephens is likely facing along with McCarty’s life sentence without the chance of parole.
A decision will likely be made in the coming months.