Suspect searched ‘how long it takes to strangle someone’ minutes before missing Ole Miss student was to arrive, prosecutors say

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A Mississippi judge on Tuesday denied bond for a man suspected of killing a University of Mississippi student who has been missing since early July.

Judge Grady F. Tollison III rejected a request to set bond for Sheldon Timothy Herrington Jr., 22, of Grenada, during a preliminary hearing in Oxford.

Herrington faces a charge of murder in the suspected death Jimmie “Jay” Lee, 20, whose body has yet to be found after his July 8 disappearance.

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The prosecution used Tuesday’s court hearing to lay out some of its findings in the case.

At the hearing, the missing student’s mother Stephanie Lee testified that she regularly spoke with her son, talking on the phone multiple times each day, news outlets reported. She told the judge her birthday was July 8, the day her son disappeared, and other than an early morning text she did not hear from him at all that day. She said that’s when she knew “he was no longer with us.”

Lee was last seen at an apartment complex where his vehicle was later found.

Stephanie Lee also said Oxford Police told her a police dog detected a scent of decomposition in Herrington’s home. Detectives in the case later testified that cadaver dogs alerted three times to the smell of a body in the area.

Officers also obtained a search warrant to view social media conversations on Herrington’s phone that showed conversations between he and Lee on the morning of July 8, investigator said. They added that Herrington did numerous computer searches about international travel and found Google searches for “how long it takes to strangle someone” minutes after Lee reportedly told Herrington he was on his way to the apartment.

Herrington, under questioning from police, admitted to having a relationship with Lee, according to authorities.

Investigators also learned that Herrington had a moving service in Grenada, Mississippi. They said he brought a box truck to Oxford before taking it back to Grenada.

Herrington’s defense team said even though bodily fluids were found on blankets inside of the truck, the evidence was found weeks after Lee went missing and the vehicle could have been used by anyone.

Defense attorneys asked Oxford Police Detective Ryan Baker if there was any trace evidence linking Herrington to Lee’s death. The detective replied, “Not at this time.”

The defense also had Herrington’s mother as well as a series of church leaders and former teachers take the stand to speak on behalf of Herrington’s character and reliability, saying that they do not believe he would be a flight risk if released before trial.

Tollison later denied bond for Herrington. He is being held at the Lafayette County Detention Center.

Federal and local law enforcement agencies, meanwhile, are working to locate Lee or his body. Lee’s family is offering a $5,000 reward and the Lafayette County CrimeStoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information that would lead to his being found.