Greenville, MS—Leonard Stevenson, Jr., 27, of Greenville was convicted of Capital Murder in Washington County following a three-day jury trial, District Attorney Dewayne Richardson announced today.
Testimony at the trial revealed that just after the 11 o’ clock hour on the night of February 6, 2017, family members of Billy Smiley, Sr. heard his faint cries for help just outside of their home in Greenville. Officers of the Greenville Police Department responded to the location to find a brutally stabbed and bleeding Smiley being comforted by family, friends, and neighbors. Fighting through the pain, Smiley maintained enough strength to inform bystanders that “Leonard” was the assailant and that he tried to rob Smiley. Investigators shifted to action, quickly identifying Leonard Stevenson, Jr. as the individual responsible after those who knew Smiley advised that a man named Leonard played in the band with Smiley and a neighbor observed a person fitting his description fleeing the scene. Stevenson was subsequently identified in a photo line-up by the witness.
A warrant for Stevenson was issued for the assault and robbery and investigators began to search for him. He was apprehended in Little Rock, Arkansas two days later where members of the Greenville and Leland Police Departments traveled to speak with him. On February 8, 2017, while Smiley fought for his life in the hospital, Stevenson confessed to the attack. In his statement, he told the investigators that he stabbed Smiley over money he felt he was owed after seeing Smiley given money following a band performance—though Stevenson admitted at trial that he did not know whether Smiley was actually being paid for that night’s performance. Smiley died on February 9th and Stevenson was later indicted for Capital Murder.
Following a series of pre-trial motions, Stevenson exercised his constitutional right to trial and was convicted by a jury of his peers on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 10, 2021—four years and one day after Smiley’s family was notified of his death. The Washington County jury announced its verdict convicting Stevenson of Capital Murder in open court at the Washington County Convention Center at 3:17 p.m. Stevenson was thereafter sentenced by Senior Circuit Judge Ashley Hines to Life Without Parole.
Assistant District Attorneys Kaylon McCou and Austin Frye, who represented the people of Washington County and the State, offered closing remarks before the jury in which they argued that a Capital Murder conviction was the only just outcome under the facts presented. And they are proud to have fought for justice on behalf of the Smiley family. “A conviction cannot bring back a loved one, but sometimes it is the closest we can get to true justice. It is my hope that the jury’s verdict provides Billy Smiley’s family some sense of peace and that now they can continue to heal and begin to turn the page on what must be an immensely painful chapter in their lives.” McCou added.
The Office of the District Attorney is deeply appreciative for the diligent work of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Greenville Police Department and the patience of the Smiley family and community while our office worked to pursue justice while protecting and preserving the rights of the accused.
Stevenson remains indicted for two separate Washington County homicides. He is presumed not guilty until proven guilty.