After 39 years, Mississippi family pleads to keep their son’s killer behind bars

Published 6:02 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

The family of a Mississippi boy who was shot and killed nearly four decades ago hopes the community can help keep their son’s killer behind bars.

Almost exactly 39 years since the late Bobby Freeman and Debi Freeman’s 4-year-old son was shot and killed, his murderer will be going up before a parole board to plead his case as to why he should be set free.

On July 24, 1985, Debi Freeman was driving home on College Hill Road with her two sons, Robert, 14, and James Neal, 4, and another boy when bullets came from out of nowhere into her car, hitting James Neal and killing him instantly.

Anthony James Jenkins

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Anthony James Jenkins, 19 at the time, was charged with James Neal’s death and sentenced to life in prison. Court records showed Jenkins stole a gun and thought he was “Rambo.” He had been under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he decided to fire a rifle into vehicles that day randomly.

He was sentenced in April 1986 to life in prison and has since come up for parole three times since 2010 – every five years. He has been denied all three times and Freeman said she is praying he is denied once again.

His parole hearing is scheduled for the last week of July.

She is asking for the community’s help in keeping Jenkins in prison by writing letters to the parole board asking them to deny his request for parole. He is now 59 years old and is being held at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, commonly known as Parchman.

Jenkins was found guilty of capital murder, which meant he could have been sentenced to the death penalty.

However, Andy Waller, then head of Oxford Police Department’s tactical unit that responded to the shooting, said during the penalty phase, the jury could not agree to sentencing Jenkins to death.

“’ Life’ does not mean life under incarceration. ‘Life’ means you get parole hearings,” Waller said. “It’s just not fair. In my mind, it never has been fair and never will be as long as a man like Jenkins gets sentenced to life and then gets parole hearings.”

Letters can be mailed to The Parole Board, 239 N. Lamar St. Suit 501, Jackson, MS 39202.