Legislators explain why bill filed in honor of slain Desoto County Rep. died once again

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - We are approaching the two-year anniversary of a former Desoto County Representative’s homicide.

Her death prompted state lawmakers to file a bill in her honor, but for the second year in a row, the legislation died in committee.

In case you’re not familiar with Ashley Henley’s case, she was killed at the very same property where her sister-in-law was found dead just months before.

Many of her family members and colleagues question why the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department hasn’t asked the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to take over the case.

3 On Your Side has tried asking the Yalobusha sheriff on countless occasions, even showing up to the department in-person, but has only been told he isn’t available to talk.

House Bill 33 since named, “The Ashley Henley Investigative Authority Act,” would have made it to where MBI can step in without the request of a local sheriff if an elected or appointed leader is killed or the circumstances surrounding the official’s death are questionable.

That is, if the bill had made it out of committee.

“I believe there was a breakdown in communication between the two chambers,” one of the bill’s author’s Rep. Dan Eubanks said. “I went and spoke with the chairman of Judiciary B in the senate, and I think there was a misunderstanding as to exactly what the bill did and why it was needed.”

“After I explained it to him, he was like, ‘oh, I wish somebody had come and told me,’” he added. “I didn’t know that was my job, since I’m not on Judiciary B in the house.”

The chairman of Judiciary B, where the bill died, is Senator Joey Fillingane.

According to Fillingane, Eubanks was the first person to speak with him about the bill, and it wasn’t until about 10 o’clock Wednesday morning.

“Typically, if someone doesn’t come to you and say, ‘hey, this is really important to me, and this is why we need to do this,’ you kind of assume that it was filed just more or less as a request of a constituent, and it’s not really a serious piece of legislation,” Fillingane explained.

WLBT asked the senator whose responsibility it is to brief him on bills.

“Whoever is in favor of passing a piece of legislation, and sometimes it’s not always just a legislator. It could be a law enforcement group in the state or something like that,” he said. “But it can certainly just be the legislator who’s proposing the legislation.”

The bill’s main author, Timmy Ladner, admitted he never spoke to Fillingane but said he wasn’t sure what committee the bill was going to and got distracted with other things.

Eubanks was the bill’s sub-author but said he assumed someone else had briefed the senate.

Both men are confident the legislation will pass next session.

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