Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Chief, City of Verona

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) – A deadly drive-by victim’s family is filing a claim against the City of Verona and its police chief after they say a suspect was illegally released from jail without bond.

The notice of this lawsuit comes right after the funeral for the victim was held Tuesday.

Latavious Betts, 17, is accused of the death of 66-year-old Annie Walton in the December 7 shooting that occurred in the Palmetto community of Lee County. “He never should have been on the streets,” said Walton’s attorney Casey Lott on Betts. “He should have been behind bars and incapable of committing crimes. The ball was dropped not once but twice by Chief J.B. Long.”

In a previous interview, Long stated that he did not have enough evidence to hold Betts.

The facts on which the claim is based state that Long arranged for Betts to not see a judge for an initial appearance on his first murder charge for a shooting that took place back in April.

Legal documents for the suspect’s waiver of initial appearance and appearance bond were never signed by a judge or Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. Fast forward to July, Betts is back in handcuffs for another shooting, in which he is charged with aggravated assault.

“So he never should have been allowed to post bond on the aggravated assault charge,” said Lott. “Unfortunately, he was allowed to do so because the chief of police, J.B. Long, failed to inform Judge Holland that he was already out on bond for a first-degree murder charge.”

The recent deadly shooting could have all been avoided, according to the family. “Never have I heard of this happening before,” expressed Lott. “Someone being released on a recognizance bond on a murder charge is I’m sure unprecedented.”