OXFORD, Miss.—When University of Mississippi senior Jimmie “Jay” Lee didn’t show up for a baby-formula donation drive he had arranged for Friday, July 8, 2022, his friends and family knew something was wrong.
Almost three weeks later, the Mississippi Third Circuit Court has set a date for the arraignment of the man local law enforcement officials suspect murdered Lee, although at press time the Jackson-area native’s body is still missing.
Police arrested Sheldon Timothy Herrington Jr., 22, and charged him with murder on Friday, July 22, an Oxford Police Department press release announced that evening. “Law enforcement agencies are still working to locate Lee’s body,” the press release said. “This is still an ongoing investigation and updates will be given at a later date.”
Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Gray Tollison signed a continuance this morning, scheduling Herrington’s arraignment hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Kilpatrick told the Mississippi Free Press in the Lafayette County Courthouse this morning.
Police arrested Herrington, originally from Grenada, just three days after the Oxford Police Department announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Mississippi Attorney General’s office were aiding the investigation.
Lee Missing for 17 Days
Jay Lee was last seen leaving his apartment at Campus Walk—a university-affiliated apartment complex—at 5:58 a.m. on Friday, July 8, in his gray slippers, silver robe and a gold bonnet.
After he did not show up to the baby-formula drive on Friday, July 8, concerned family and friends reported Lee missing to the University of Mississippi police department at 8:28 p.m., Mississippi Today reported.
Authorities located Lee’s car at a local towing agency on Monday, July 11, after it was towed from Molly Barr Trail Apartments in Oxford on Friday, July 8. Law enforcement officials sent the car to the Mississippi State Crime Lab for testing.
Officials are still working to locate Lee’s body. He is 5’7” and weighs 120 pounds, with black and blond hair. Local law enforcement agencies and their K9s searched for Lee in specific areas within Oxford on Wednesday, July 13. Agencies included Oxford Police Department, University of Mississippi Police Department, Lafayette County Metro Narcotics, and the DeSoto County Sheriff Department Search and Rescue Team.
“For any tips, please contact OPD at 662-232-2400, UPD at 662-915-7234, CrimeStoppers at 662-234-8477, or you can direct message us on any of our social media accounts,” the Friday, July 22, press release said.
CrimeStoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to Lee being found, and Lee’s family has pledged another $5,000 reward, the Oxford Police Department announced in Thursday, July 14, and Tuesday, July 19, press releases.
Hope Rally to Bring Jay Home
On Wednesday, July 20, Lee’s friends, family and classmates gathered at the circle on the University of Mississippi campus for the Hope Rally to Bring Jay Home.
The University of Mississippi Black Student Union, Student Social Work Association, Rebels Against Sexual Asssault, Students Against Social Injustice, and the Associated Student Body organized the event with the help of Code Pink and the Lee Family, event speakers said. Lee was in Oxford for the summer to finish his undergraduate social work degree, and was scheduled to begin the University of Mississippi’s master’s program in social work this fall, Mississippi Today reported.
University of Mississippi Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charlotte Fant Pegues read a statement from Lee’s parents, Stephanie and Jimmie Lee, at the event.
“Just yesterday my husband and I had to go through some Amazon packages that Jay had previously ordered,” Pegues said in the Wednesday, July 20, statement. “We were overwhelmed in seeing how he was ordering baby items out of his own pocket to give out to children in need.”
Lee had arranged the baby-formula donation drive as a part of Lee’s internship with the Mississippi Department of Human Services in Lafayette County, his family told Mississippi Today.
Lee was a familiar face to many of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ community members both due to his community involvement and his role as a local drag queen.
Code Pink Coordinator Blake Summers first met Lee at a Pride event.
“I saw him perform at Pride, and I could just tell he’s going to be a predominant character within the community,” Summers said in a Saturday, July 23, interview. “… He was like singing ‘Rain On Me’ to his own track so I knew he would be someone that could perform, and that he had talent.”
Lee soon began performing at Code Pink, originally using the drag name Jay Lee and later switching to Jay Diva, Summers said. He described Lee as a “fiercely free,” resourceful and driven person, with an excitable personality and a lot of initiative.
Suspect: UM Graduate from Grenada
Sheldon Timothy Herrington Jr. is a 22-year-old recent University of Mississippi graduate from Grenada, Miss.. His now-missing Facebook page said he was one of the owners at T and T moving company; the company’s Facebook page includes him in some photos.
At arraignment hearings like the one scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, a judge formally states the charges against defendants and informs them of their rights. They often also set or deny bail, and schedule future court dates. Witnesses appear in arraignment hearings in cases where police arrested a defendant without a warrant to determine probable cause, Mississippi’s rules of criminal procedure state. Witnesses also appear in cases where terms of bail might be in dispute.
In Mississippi, a judge can deny bail for anyone charged with a crime that has a maximum sentence of 20 years of more “… when the proof is evident or the presumption great upon making a determination that the release of the person or persons arrested for such offense would constitute a special danger to any other person or to the community or that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required,” the Mississippi Constitution states in Article 3, Part 29.
First-degree murder convictions carry a mandatory life sentence; second-degree murder can carry a life sentence, or between 20 and 40 years in jail, under Mississippi Code 97-3-21. Defendants convicted of capitol murder are elligible for the death penalty, a life sentence in the state penitentiary without parole or a life sentence in the state penitentiary with opportunity for parole.
ADA: Carlos Moore Not Representing Herrington
Prosecutors have not yet announced the specifics of Herrington’s charges. The specific requirements for each degree of charge in homicides are outlined in Mississippi Code 97-3-19.
It is unclear what evidence led to Herrington’s arrest, but information should be available at the Wednesday, July 27, arraignment hearing.
Today, Assistant District Attorney Kilpatrick corrected reports that said attorney Carlos Moore would represent Herrington. Moore was previously married to Herrington’s aunt for 20 years, WREG reported on Saturday, July 23. Moore tweeted Saturday, July 23, that he was retained in addition to defense attorney Kevin Horan.
Horan will represent Herrington at trial, Kilpatrick said today. He is a lawyer and current member of the Mississippi House of Representatives for District 34, representing Carroll, Grenada, Holmes, Leflore and Tallahatchie counties. Brad Daigneault of Horan & Horan law firm in Grenada represented Herrington before Judge Tollison this morning, the firm’s receptionist confirmed.
Kilpatrick handles abuse and sexual-assutalt cases for the Mississippi Third Circuit Court, which includes Benton, Calhoun, Chicksaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union counties.