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Kizzetta McClendon met Tony Boyd in November of 2019, and just four months later, she said, he was trying to kill her.
Boyd allegedly shot her in a car wash parking lot in Morton “in broad daylight,” as she says, less than a mile away from the police department. She picked that location to meet Boyd because she thought it would be safe.
Over the course of a year and a half after the shooting, McClendon says she has been fighting for her life. Boyd allegedly attempted to run McClendon over with a car. Months later, he raped her in a grocery store parking lot, according to police documents.
After all three alleged violent crimes, Boyd was granted a bond and given the ability to walk free — despite the fact the Mississippi Constitution requires judges to revoke a person’s bond if he commits a felony while out on bond for a previous felony.
There are many stories like this in Mississippi, where no centralized domestic violence crime database exists and enforcement of piece-meal domestic violence laws are subject to the whims of police, judges and district attorneys.
Mississippi Today’s ongoing series has revealed a disjointed legal system in municipal and justice courts, where the majority of domestic violence cases are heard, and a criminal justice system that largely fails these victims.
Meanwhile, victims of domestic violence like McClendon are often left to live in constant danger of repeated attacks.
A victim ‘trapped in a box’
McClendon said her years-long battle to escape Boyd has been exhausting.
She’s spent the last two years advocating for herself: pushing police officers to make an arrest, questioning court clerks, judges and district attorneys, placing phone calls and visiting courts and police departments across Scott County trying to get information about the status of her cases. She often gets the runaround, which leaves her feeling deflated and discouraged.
McClendon said she endured months of abuse from Boyd, beginning shortly after she met him in late 2019. Just 10 days before the alleged shooting the following March, he strangled her with an extension cord and men’s dress tie, she said.
There were threats before that, and it would only escalate when she would try to distance herself, she said.
She didn’t leave her house except to go to work, and each time she did, she did a scan of her surroundings to make sure he wasn’t outside waiting for her.
“I got to the point where before I would leave for work, I would look outside to make sure he wasn’t in the bushes. I would call him on FaceTime just to see if he was in his home before I walked outside to get in my vehicle … to make sure he wasn’t out there waiting to kill me,” she said of her daily routine.
After she was shot in the shoulder and arm on March 23, 2020, she remembers her first thought when she woke up in the hospital: She could finally be free of him. He had tried to kill her and it didn’t work, she said, and now he would be put away forever.
But that wasn’t the case. Morton Municipal Court Judge Whitney Adams initially set his bond at $300,000. Paperwork from his initial appearance in front of Adams shows the conditions were that he not have any contact with McClendon and a handwritten section that says: “Other conditions: Danger to community.”
But a month later, Adams reduced the amount to $100,000. On June 4 — less than three months after McClendon was shot — Adams reduced the bond again to $75,000, and Boyd was able to post bail, according to documents from the Morton Municipal Court.
Adams did not respond to Mississippi Today’s questions about why Boyd’s bond was reduced twice.
Boyd walks free – again
In September 2020, about six months after the shooting, Boyd allegedly tried to run McClendon over with his car at a bank in Forest, according to police documents. Former Forest Municipal Court Judge Norman Brown set his bond at $25,000, according to documents from the Scott County Detention Center.
Those who get arrested must come up with 10% of the total bond amount, meaning Boyd was able to post $2,500 or arrange payment and be released.
Boyd bonded out again.
Several months later, Boyd allegedly accosted McClendon in a grocery store parking lot and raped her, according to police reports. He was given another bond of $150,000. Forest Municipal Court prosecutor Evan Thompson told Mississippi Today the court has no records of either bond being set, but records from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department show all the bonds set by Brown.
Brown, who is now retired, declined to answer multiple questions sent by email and refused an interview when approached by the reporter in the courtroom.
Following the latest arrest, Boyd remains in jail. Technically, if he could come up with the money today, he could walk out — and potentially hurt McClendon once again.
Boyd’s attorney Shawn Harris did not respond to several requests for comment from Mississippi Today.
“It’s very clear that either the prosecutor or certainly the municipal court judge failed this victim repeatedly and put her at heightened risk of dangerous lethal intimate partner violence,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, the director of the Center for Battered Women’s legal services at Sanctuary for Families in New York, the largest dedicated legal services program for survivors of domestic violence in the country.
“To me it’s shocking that after he committed felony-level crimes he was actually able to be released on multiple occasions. And what we know about domestic violence – especially domestic violence of this level of severity – is that it escalates,” said Leidholdt, who also teaches domestic violence and the law at Columbia University.
Officials disregard history of alleged abuse
Almost a decade earlier, Boyd stabbed his then-girlfriend Lenore Gray over 20 times, resulting in a punctured lung and neck wounds that made her unable to speak for months. She said he stabbed her for the same reason McClendon said her shot her – both refused sex with him.
Gray’s then 6 and 8-year-old boys were in the room next door when she was stabbed, she said.
“I stayed in Jackson (at the University of Mississippi Medical Center)” recovering from the injuries, she said, and incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills.
She also had to attend physical therapy to regain use of her fingers as a result of her attempts to fight him off of her.
After pleading guilty in 2012, Boyd served about four years in prison before being released on parole. He remained under the supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for 14 months, according to MDOC.
Gray said she heard about his release through social media — the same way she found out what happened to McClendon years later.
She said when she heard about the series of attacks on McClendon, including the shooting, she broke down.
“What are they going to do, wait until he kills somebody?” Gray said. “There’s obviously something wrong there.”
District Attorney Steven Kilgore’s office currently has all three of Boyd’s cases involving McClendon. When asked if he knew why Brown repeatedly granted Boyd a bond — thus allowing him to get out of jail and allegedly commit more crimes — he said he didn’t know.
“We were not involved at that point” in the case, he said, noting his office does not receive cases until law enforcement hands them over.
Because the state has no centralized system tracking these crimes, often a judge in one court may not be aware of what has happened in another court, he said.
“Ideally, somebody that knew about it would say, ‘Hey, this guy was already out on an aggravated assault,’ but that doesn’t always happen,” said Kilgore.
But that doesn’t explain why Boyd was given a bond for the rape charge — both it and his previous domestic violence aggravated assault charge were heard in Forest Municipal Court.
And Robbie Wilson, the Grenada County prosecutor and an advocate for domestic violence victims, said it is true there’s no centralized database, but all it takes is the prosecutor placing a phone call to find out about pending cases in other courts. And because prosecutors are the one communicating with the victims, he or she is best suited to follow up on additional information the victim provides.
“But you have to want to do your job. You have to care,” Wilson said. “If the prosecutor doesn’t present it (the information about someone being out on bond), the judge often doesn’t even know it.”
Kilgore, the district attorney, again said he didn’t know why Boyd still has a bond today.
“If he does have a bond on that third one, we’ll make sure that’s pulled and file a motion to revoke bond,” he said.
As of press time, such a motion did not exist.
A pattern in Scott County – and Mississippi
Advocates and former police officers who worked in Forest and Scott County say what happened to McClendon does not surprise them.
Stephanie Stockton, a former advocate with the Care Lodge in Meridian, visited Forest Municipal and Scott County Justice Courts as part of her job. Her goal was to make sure domestic violence victims knew there were services out there to help them go through the legal system, which can be confusing and daunting.
Officials from the courts would not coordinate with her and often made things more difficult for victims, she said.
When crimes occur, either law enforcement or the victims can press charges. In domestic violence cases, victims will often either press charges and later drop them or decline to press charges at all. They do this for a variety of reasons including love, finances or fear of retaliation from the abuser.
The law accounts for this and requires a police officer to file charges if he or she witnesses or sees evidence a crime has occurred. But two police officers who formerly worked with the Forest Police Department say when officers would file domestic violence charges, former Judge Norman Brown — the same judge who repeatedly granted Boyd bond — would simply dismiss them.
This particularly bothered James Creel, one of those former officers who now works in another department. A family member of Creel’s was a domestic violence victim.
“He (Judge Brown) will tell you straight off the bat that if the victim didn’t sign the affidavit and the warrant, it’s not happening — it’s going to be thrown out,” said Creel. “It makes you (as a police officer) feel like you’re backed into a corner and silenced.”
Brown, again, declined to offer comment or answer questions for this story. Thompson, the city prosecutor, did the same.
The state’s disregard for domestic violence crimes and victims is perhaps most obvious at the level of the attorney general’s office. Despite the offer from an organization to help the state institute a domestic violence fatality review, or a review of deaths caused by domestic violence for the purpose of preventing future deaths, further discussion and planning never materialized, according to Neil Websdale, the director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative.
Michelle Williams, the deputy chief of staff for the attorney general, said the person in communication with Websdale is no longer with the attorney general’s office.
As such, Mississippi remains one of only five states in the nation with no such review.
Inaction by law enforcement
Six months after the shooting, McClendon said Boyd kidnapped her in an attempt to take her to her family’s home so she could tell them they were dating again. When he stopped at a fast food restaurant in Forest and was reaching for the food through his window, she jumped out of the car and attempted to run into a nearby bank, but its door was locked, the police report said.
She then ran to the area of the ATM machine, where Boyd then tried to run her over with his car, according to the report. After she jumped out of the way, he hit a Tahoe and fled from the scene, the report said.
Boyd was only arrested and booked over two months later — which Forest Police Chief Will Jones said was likely because officers in the jurisdiction where he lived were unable to locate him.
According to McClendon, however, she gave officers addresses of where he lived and worked, and even told them when he was on the clock. It wasn’t until she reached out to the mayor of Forest that anything was done.
Mayor Nancy Chambers confirmed to Mississippi Today she has spoken with McClendon about her case, including recently making phone calls to the police department and the district attorney’s office.
Because Boyd was out on bond for the shooting charge in Morton, McClendon expected he wouldn’t be given a bond after he was arrested for allegedly attempting to run her over. But then-Forest Municipal Court Judge Norman Brown set a $25,000 bond.
Four days later, Boyd came up with enough money and was released.
“They told me he’s entitled to a bond unless he does capital murder,” McClendon said. “I went to the judge, I went to the DA, I went to the circuit court clerk and told them, ‘He’s already out on bond for shooting me, how are y’all going to get him another bond?’”
She spent the following months “cooped up,” as she said, out of fear. She only left the house for necessities.
Just three months later in March 2021, McClendon was leaving a grocery store in Forest and saw him waiting for her in the parking lot.
“I thought I’d seen a ghost. I thought I was fixing to die,” she recalled of the moment.
As she was getting into her car, Boyd appeared and prevented her from shutting the door, according to the police report. There, in the parking lot, he raped her, she told police.
She went that night to report the rape to the Forest Police Department but was told to come back the next day, she said, because no one was available to take her statement.
She decided to call a domestic violence shelter in the Jackson area, which told her to immediately come to their clinic for a rape kit.
She and an advocate from the shelter returned the next day to the police department, she said. When they met with a sergeant in the department, McClendon said she was discouraged from filing the charges.
“He was saying things like, ‘Cases are real hard to prosecute, and they can get real nasty. It’s going to be really hard for you,’” McClendon recalled. “Had she (the advocate) not been here, I would’ve given up. I wanted to leave, and she encouraged me to stay.”
Forest Police Chief Will Jones said an officer would not discourage anyone from filing charges.
“It was probably the weekend, and the investigator was not in the building … There was no officer that was going to discourage her from filing charges,” Jones told Mississippi Today.