Greenville, MS – Berdell Willis, III, 22 yoa, of Greenville, was sentenced following his May 2022 guilty plea to the charge of Second Degree Murder in the November 2017 murder of Darrell Lafayette, District Attorney Dewayne Richardson announced today.
Two days before Thanksgiving in 2017, officers of the Greenville Police Department were dispatched to Fairview Avenue where emergency medical personnel had encountered an unresponsive male. The responding officers entered the residence where they found Darrell Lafayette deceased with what appeared to be a head injury. The first responders made contact with his step-son, Berdell Willis, III (“Wills”), who advised that he had been told to check on the home by his mother and that he found the door open. He then immediately left and told her to come home. Detectives arrived on scene and further investigation revealed that Lafayette had been shot.
Investigators with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Greenville Police Department began to process the crime scene and noted how remarkably clean and undisturbed the residence was and that there was no evidence of forced entry into the home. While interviewing those on scene, Investigators immediately noticed several inconsistencies in Willis’ story. Investigators spoke with an associate of Willis who advised that Willis had previously made comments about possibly harming his step-father. He told the officers that Willis asked him to come by Willis’ home as he had on many prior occasions. This associate did not think anything of it, but when he observed Darrell Lafayette’s unresponsive body, he hurriedly left the residence. Additional details led the police to the whereabouts of the firearm that was used and, once confronted with the facts contradicting his version of events, Willis eventually confessed to the murder.
Willis, 17 years old at the time, was indicted by a Washington County Grand Jury in 2018. Prior to his trial, Willis was ordered by the court to undergo a full mental evaluation to ensure that he fully comprehended the circumstances surrounding his prosecution. He was evaluated and the expert forensic psychologist determined that Willis was fully competent to proceed. After he was found competent to proceed, he later pled guilty to Second Degree Murder which carries a minimum of twenty (20) years and a maximum of forty (40) years. While Willis pled guilty to Second-Degree Murder in May of 2022, a sentencing hearing was held on last Friday and Willis argued to the Court that his actions were the product of abuse and mental health issues. The State argued that there was no evidence of abuse and that the mental evaluation found that any possible mental health issues were minor and did not contribute to his actions or impact his ability to understand the nature and consequences of his actions. At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, Berdell Willis, III was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Carey-McCray to twenty (20) years to serve in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, followed by five (5) years of Post-Release Supervision.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Kaylon McCou and John Herzog, Jr. ADA McCou thanked the Greenville Police Department for their investigative efforts in quickly identifying the primary suspect and working diligently to ensure they arrested and charged the correct person. He also expressed his gratitude to the family of Darrell Lafayette for their patience while the District Attorney’s Office worked to pursue justice in this case while also fulfilling its duty and responsibility to preserve the rights of the accused
Contact: W. Dewayne Richardson District Attorney, Fourth Circuit Court District | 662-378-2105