BOGUE CHITTO, Miss. (WLBT) - There were 15 of them, jurors and alternates.
Before February, many of them had never even heard of Bogue Chitto. Now, their hearts are forever tied there by a common experience.
After being sequestered in Pike County in the Cory Godbolt mass murder trial, those 15 people from DeSoto County would never see life the same way again.
“We all left a piece of us down here," said jury foreman Nicole Becker. "It felt not done, it felt incomplete.”
That feeling was one all 15 jurors shared, so on the way home from the trial, they began to talk about what they could do for Bogue Chitto – almost four hours and a world away from their homes in DeSoto County. It made that much impact on them to see what the families of Barbara Mitchell, Brenda May, Toccara May, William Durr, Jordan Blackwell, Austin Edwards, and Ferral and Shelia Burage had gone through.
“We just felt like we were leaving parts of ourselves here, and our family," said juror Mandy Keeton. "You know, we tried to go home to go see our families, but we realized that our family was still here.”
They decided to travel back to Lincoln County on Wednesday, the anniversary of the beginning of the shooting spree. The reason why was that the case that had changed the world for everyone it touched had changed the world for those jurors too.
“We walked through a lot of the details of one of the most traumatic weekends of their lives, and we just felt that connection to them, and we just want to be here for them," said juror Paige Fetters.
The jurors said they hope the families can begin to heal after their verdict and the death sentence Godbolt now faces, but they found themselves wanting to be a part of the healing process.
“We want to actually see that, you know, just see that, and I’m just happy that we actually got a chance to do this. It’s awesome,” said Mildred Williams, speaking of the gathering Wednesday night.
Chinese lanterns were released at the site of the Bogue Chitto monument, each a tribute to eight lives cut short whose legacies will never die. Those who lost, and those who meted out justice for them cried together… and there was hope.
“We have consistently since day one prayed and prayed over everything we did," Becker said to the gathering in Bogue Chitto. "Every decision we made, every conversation we had, and for you all, everyone involved, and we felt your prayers in return.”