BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Three of the six people originally charged in the death of Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithen entered guilty pleas Tuesday.
Joshua Michael Kovach, 22, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to capital murder, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.
Dalentez Latavian Brice, 21, pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution by attempting to prevent law enforcement from discovering facts related to the prime suspect’s criminal activity, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Wanya Atkinson, 21, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact. All three are set to be sentenced September 8, 2020.
During the pleas, Kovach, Brice and Wanya Atkinson, all told the court that prior to arriving at Atkinson’s mother’s home in the early morning hours of May 6, 2019, they had all seen photos of the suspect released to the press and on social media and recognized the suspect as Darian Atkinson. Kovach and Wanya Atkinson admitted that after arriving at the residence, they assisted Atkinson in changing clothes to conceal his identity as the suspect.
Brice, who did not actively participate in the changing of Atkinson’s clothes, admitted to lying to the police when interviewed, denying both that he knew Darian Atkinson and that he had been at the residence with Darian Atkinson on the night of Officer McKiethan’s murder.
Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker said the assistance Kovach and Wanya Atkinson provided to Darian Atkinson was captured on video by a home surveillance system.
Kovach was out on bond at the time of his plea, but after his plea was accepted, he was remanded into custody pending sentencing. Brice and Wanya Atkinson have been in custody since their arrests in May of 2019, and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
A fourth suspect, 18-year-old Andre Anderson Sullivan, previously pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact. His sentencing is postponed, like all the others, pending a resolution of the capital murder charge against Darian Atkinson.
One remaining accessory suspect, Davian Lewanika Atkinson, is still awaiting trial. He is the brother of Darian Atkinson, who police say pulled the trigger that night.
Darian Atkinson is scheduled for trial September 21, 2020. Court documents filed in April show Atkinson’s legal team plans to use the “defense of insanity.” They’re also working to get the trial moved to another county, saying they want a chance to secure an impartial jury.
Officer Robert McKeithen was a 24-year veteran of the Biloxi Police Department. Just last week, his name was added to the etched stone monument at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.
Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo" Gilich is happy to see the system working. “We’re hopeful and we have confidence that justice will be served. It’s a tragic thing. We just celebrated the one-year anniversary of it with his family. I can remember that night sitting on the curb, with Pam, just hours after this happened. We’re hopeful that justice will be served and this all part of the process," Gilich said. “We’re just hopeful that justice will be served and that this is part of the process. We’ll see what the next steps are. Again, hopefully justice will be served and you know, define such a horrible event and maybe prevent such a horrible event in the future," Gilich told WLOX.