Man held in killing of 8 people often threatened violence
BROOKHAVEN, Miss. – Willie Cory Godbolt, the man accused of killing a sheriff's deputy and seven people he knew in rural Mississippi, has led a life marked by violence, starting with his own parents.
Godbolt has been charged with misdemeanor assault or similar crimes at least a dozen times and convicted in at least six of them, Lincoln County court records show, since he was 17, when his mother shot and killed his father, a Brookhaven police officer.
She had accused him of domestic violence; but the charges were later dropped. Then, in 1999, using her ex-husband's police revolver, she shot him to death and pleaded guilty to manslaughter and burglary. She is no longer in prison, Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell said Tuesday.
Last June, Goldbolt's own wife accused him of choking and punching her, and putting his hand down her mouth so she couldn't scream.
Investigators say his most violent act yet happened over the weekend, when he showed up armed at his in-laws' house and then opened fire, ultimately killing eight people at three separate homes. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Godbolt, shackled at his hands and feet, appeared in court briefly Tuesday afternoon and was denied bail. He was being held at the Copiah County jail.
His left armed was bandaged from a gunshot wound, but it's not clear who shot him. Investigators say it wasn't police.
Godbolt, who in the past has worked for a grocery distributor, showed little emotion and barely spoke during the hearing. A judge said the court will appoint an attorney for him.
Slain were Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy William Durr; Barbara Mitchell, 55; Brenda May, 53; Toccara May, 35; Austin Edwards, 11; and Jordan Blackwell, 18; Ferral Burage, 45; and Shelia Burage, 46.
Funeral services were scheduled over several days starting Thursday.
In the last four years, Godbolt had been cited repeatedly for making threats or assaulting family members and others. He was convicted after punching a husband and pushing a wife out of the bleachers at a school football game in October 2013.
Godbolt's in-laws, the May family, pressed charges against him multiple times, with Godbolt being convicted of death threats in November 2015.
His wife, Sheena Godbolt, obtained a restraining order against her husband last June after accusing him of felony domestic violence. Sheena Godbolt swore in court papers that her husband harmed her "by punching her in the stomach repeatedly and by choking her. She states he also put his hand down her mouth where she couldn't scream for help."
On Saturday, the initial call came at 11:30 p.m. to remove a person involved in a domestic dispute. Investigators say Godbolt had gone to a home to demand that his estranged wife give up their two children. Durr, the deputy, had told him to leave, and relatives said it seemed Godbolt was going to comply when he began shooting.
"We've handled calls like that a thousand times," Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said. "At some point, it went really bad."
After killing four people there, Godbolt continued an all-night rampage where he killed the two boys at a second home and then the Burages in a third location around sunrise, authorities said.
Rushing said Godbolt changed cars at least three times. Witnesses say he forced a woman and then a 15-year-old boy to drive him around for much of the night. Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain declined to confirm those reports.
Aside from the deputy, everyone who died was a relative or acquaintance of Godbolt.
A story of heroism emerged from the carnage. A witness at the second shooting said Blackwell used his body to shield his cousin, Caleb Edwards, 15, from the gunfire.
"He loved me enough to take some bullets for me," Caleb said Monday.
Caleb's 11-year-old brother, Austin Edwards, was also shot to death in that living room early Sunday.
Godbolt told The Clarion-Ledger that he hadn't planned to be captured alive.
"My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets," he said. "Suicide by cop was my intention."
This story has been corrected to show that Caleb Edwards spoke Monday, not Sunday.
Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report. Follow Jeff Amy and his work at http://twitter.com/jeffamy and https://www.apnews.com/search/Jeff_Amy .