NATCHEZ, Miss. (WLBT) - Family, friends and co-workers are speaking out after the heartbreaking loss of a Natchez Middle School teacher whose body was found Monday morning in Louisiana.
Jimmy O’Neal Lewis and Sedrick Tennessee are charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Frederick McCray, Jr. Investigators believe the teacher gave the suspects a ride before they pulled a gun out and shot him to death.
“It has been really hard," said teacher Wynetta Dangerfield. “I have been numb.”
Tears flowed as staff members at Morgantown Middle School in Natchez talked about their beloved coworker, who served as an 8th grade teacher.
“I am in total shock to this moment, I am in total shock,” said teacher Antonio Benson.
McCray taught Technology Foundations and was recently named Teacher of the Year.
“He was a joy to be around, and outgoing, his style spoke for him,” said Principal Shemekia Rankin. “He just brought that climate and culture we needed here and he related well to the students.”
According to Captain John Cowan with the Concordia Parish Sherriff’s office, McCray dropped his sister off at her home early Sunday and headed to a party in Natchez. Captain Cowan says the teacher reached out to his mom and said he was heading home after that... but never made it.
“His last words to me was I am headed home," said the victim’s mom Carol Williams. “Didn’t know that...that headed home would mean physically. Not home where I am, but the home to be with our Father.”
The family tried to contact McCray and when they were unsuccessful, they called authorities and reported him missing. Captain Cowan says through their investigation they discovered that teacher’s credit card had been used at a local store.
“Very shocking, heartbreaking, unbelievable,” said the mother.
Captain Cowan says McCray’s body was discovered in a grassy field in Ferriday, Louisiana Monday.
Deputies arrested Jimmy Lewis and charged him with first-degree murder. The second suspect, Sedrick Tennessee, was arrested in New Orleans. He allegedly stole McCray’s car and headed there after the teacher was killed.
McCray’s coworkers say he didn’t die in vain and they promise to turn this tragedy into a legacy.
“We are moving into this school year doing things the Fred McCray way and that is going to be with style and class,” said the coworker.
The funeral service for Fredrick McCray Jr. will be held Saturday, June 29, at 2 p.m. at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Natchez.