JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As social media speculation fuels theories about the murder investigation involving well-known business owner Greta Bully, 3 On Your Side has discovered a failure of the Jackson Police Department to release certain public details about the case, which appears to violate the state’s Public Records Act.
Bully was arrested April 24 for killing 65-year-old Larry Lee outside her liquor store on Medgar Evers Boulevard.
Within hours, she was arrested, charged with murder, given a $100,000 unsecured bond and released.
Rampant claims on social media that she’s influencing the investigation or the case are absolutely false, the DA said.
“We don’t care who the defendant may be. If they’re affluent, if they have means, it makes no difference to us. We have a book, things that we want to collect as we examine any scene, the crime scene investigators go by the book," Owens said. "What’s available? Did we collect everything? Did we test everything? Did we follow up with witnesses? We follow the leads. That in this case has been no different than any other case.”
Nearly all of the information on Lee’s killing came from other law enforcement officials -- the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office and the county coroner -- because nobody with the Jackson Police Department would answer texts or emails about the crime.
JPD didn’t even confirm the homicide officially through a press release or social media post, which the department typically does.
3 On Your Side requested the incident report from the night of the killing to try and learn more information about what took place.
JPD provided a retyped report instead of the original specifically requested and the document did not include information the department is required to provide by law.
For example, the document does not list who was arrested or charged, only referring to the person as a “B/F subject” who was arrested without incident.
Section 25-61-3(e) defines “incident report," saying at a minimum it “shall include the name and identification of each person charged with and arrested for the alleged offense, the time, date and location of the alleged offense, and the property involved, to the extent this information is known.”
While the date on the modified incident report is correct, the time reads “228,” which would likely refer to 2:28 a.m. using military time.
Scanner traffic indicates Jackson police arrived on scene sometime after 10:30 p.m.
Furthermore, some information in the report didn’t match what the Hinds County District Attorney has already said in court.
The narrative indicated the victim had one gunshot wound; Owens said during a court proceeding earlier this week Bully fired three shots at Lee, with evidence suggesting two different guns were used.
Bully has since been charged with drive-by shooting as well, which carried another $100,000 unsecured bond.
“I’ve not seen any evidence of a internal coverup by JPD or anybody else involved in investigating the case. That’s what we focus on. They’ve been professional. They’ve been timely with information. They’ve been receptive to ideas and suggestions, and getting more information," Owens said.
Why the secrecy to the public, though?
It may not be specifically because of this case, based on nearly a dozen incident reports 3 On Your Side has requested in recent years.
The department’s process of retyping incident reports instead of providing the originals seems to have been in place since Anthony Moore led the department as interim chief in 2018.
That procedure includes leaving the names of those charged out of those modified reports despite state law requiring that to be released.
The practice raises transparency concerns because it allows officers to modify these public records and release them to the public in an entirely new document instead of making a copy of the original report and redacting portions that are investigative in nature.
Without redactions, there’s no way to determine what may have been withheld from the department.
In January 2019, 3 On Your Side asked Chief James Davis about the procedure.
“If there’s an ongoing [investigation], you’re going to get limited information and you can’t hold it against the police department because of an ongoing investigation," Davis said.
We had to threaten legal action against JPD to make the department release the original incident reports regarding deadly officer-involved shootings in the city; you can see in that report what was actually removed by comparing the two.
3 On Your Side asked Sgt. Roderick Holmes and department spokesperson Sam Brown why the information was withheld.
Brown responded by not answering the question.
“This case has been turned over to the Hinds Country District Attorney’s office and is still an open investigation,” Brown wrote in an email.
Owens, however, contradicted what Brown told us; the DA said his staff doesn’t have the Bully case file as of Friday because it’s still being investigated by JPD.
He also pointed a finger at those outside law enforcement who might try to influence the case, telling them they could face charges, too.
“If anybody was to interfere with any investigation, JPD has the support of the District Attorney’s Office to arrest that person and charge them with either accessory after the fact, or tampering with evidence or witnesses. Those are charges. Those are serious things," Owens said.
Bully’s lawyer, Trent Walker, says he expects his client to be fully exonerated when the facts come out.