A Mississippi man arrested early Saturday in connection with a double homicide will be held without bond at the adult detention center while prosecutors prepare formal charges against him.
William Cody Childress, 21, is accused in the shooting deaths of Anthony Branch, 62, and Deborah Moncrief, 58, whose bodies were found Friday morning inside a house in the 6300 block of Cowboy Drive, located southeast of the Pine Bluff city limits.
During a court hearing Monday, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said when his office receives the full case file, “We will notify the court if we’re going to seek the death penalty.”
Jefferson County District Judge Kim Bridgforth ruled prosecutors have probable cause to charge Childress with two counts of capital murder.
Testifying at the court hearing, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sgt. Mickey Buffkin said the two victims were found on the floor of the kitchen and both had been shot in the back of the head. Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley pronounced Branch dead at 7:08 a.m. and Moncrief dead at 7:10 a.m. The bodies were sent Saturday to the State Medical Examiner’s Office at Little Rock for autopsies.
Deputies were sent to the house early Friday morning to check on the welfare of Branch and Moncrief after his daughter contacted authorities to report that she had not heard from him.
There was no sign of forced entry to the house, Major Lafayette Woods Jr. said Friday. In a press release Saturday announcing the arrest, Woods said the motive appeared to be money.
Regarding that money, Buffkin said Moncrief had loaned money to Childress, who is the fiancee of Moncrief’s niece, and there was a dispute about the money, with Childress claiming he had paid it back and Moncrief saying that he hadn’t.
Childress also told investigators he “had been abused by his father at an early age, resulting in severe mental and physical problems and when he became involved with the family (of his fiancee Jessica Moncrief), he said that was the ideal family that everybody would want,” Buffkin said during his testimony.
The investigation indicated that Moncrief and other members of her family were involved in a dispute about property that Moncrief owned in Lincoln County where Childress, his fiancee and some members of her family were living. Buffkin said Childress told investigators that the dispute was threatening to make them have to move off of the property and disrupt the family that he always wanted. During a heated discussion of the subject, one of the family members he was living with made a comment to the effect that they “just wished something would happen to [Moncrief].”
Childress and Jessica Moncrief, 23, were located Friday at the property in Lincoln County and brought back to Pine Bluff, where they were interviewed. Buffkin said during the interview that Childress admitted to shooting Branch and Moncrief. He also led investigators to a .38-caliber handgun believed to be the murder weapon.
Monday afternoon, Buffkin said the gun was found just off the on-ramp of Interstate 530 and Hazel Street in tall grass.
Jessica Moncrief was determined not to be involved in the slayings, Buffkin said.
He said Branch and Moncrief “were boyfriend-girlfriend that were flirting with the idea of getting married.
“I could only find one person who had anything bad to say about [Branch and Moncrief] and he killed them,” Buffkin said.
In court on Monday, Childress said he would hire his own attorney.