Una man convicted in 1996 murder denied new trial

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
DTL Editor

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request for a new trial from a Clay County man serving a life sentence for murder in the shooting death of a Houston, Mississippi woman more than two decades ago.

The new trial request was filed by 41-year-old Terrence O’Neal Boyd, a native of the Una community, who was found guilty of murder by a Chickasaw County jury in December 1997.

Boyd was arrested after 51-year-old Linda Byars was shot to death in her home on Oct. 18, 1996 on Mississippi Highway 32 in the Wesley Chapel community of Chickasaw County, roughly five miles north of Houston.

Boyd was arrested two days after Byars’ body was found in her kitchen. Court records said a phone cord was wrapped around her neck.

According to recorded testimony from the trial, Byars died from multiple gunshot wounds that included one to the left temple and two to the chest.

Boyd, who was 19 at the time of the murder, gave two differing statements to police after the murder, with the second statement painting a picture of what happened.

Boyd told police he went inside Byars' house to help her repair the ringer on the telephone, before she asked him how a man knew that she was selling drugs.  

Court records show Boyd answered that he did not know and that Byars “tried to make a break for the phone and I had the phone cord in my hand and I reached and grabbed her around the neck. And I just held her.”  

He went on to tell police that he choked her until she fell on the floor, bleeding and vomiting, before she got up and pleaded with him not to kill her.  

Boyd told investigators he then reached for a pistol lying on the table and shot her repeatedly, killing her in self-defense, before taking the pistol with him and throwing it in the weeds near the school where it was retrieved by the sheriff later that same night.

A Chickasaw County Circuit Court judge sentenced Boyd to life in prison for murder on Dec. 11, 1997, then sentenced him to an additional three years in prison for burglary a few days later.

Boyd is currently serving his sentences out in the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs.

He has appealed his conviction on multiple occasions, first in 2000, which the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed.

Since February 2000, court records show the state Supreme Court has denied or dismissed six petitions for post-conviction relief made by Boyd.

In its most recent ruling, the state’s highest court said Boyd’s latest request has been deemed frivolous and warned Boyd that future filings in the same manner may result in not only monetary sanctions, but restrictions on future filings.

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