Two murder investigations in Marion County remain in a holding pattern as they await grand jury indictments, which have been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hal Kittrell, district attorney for the 15th Circuit Court District, said Holly Mitchell and Sammy Foil, who both have remained jailed since early 2019 on murder charges for unrelated cases, are awaiting grand jury indictments. The Mississippi Supreme Court has delayed all grand jury indictments because of COVID-19, and Kittrell said the DA’s office will go forward once the suspension is lifted. At this point the current timeframe for reconvening grand juries and trials would be beginning June 15, but that is subject to change.
“We are, like everyone else is, in limbo at this particular moment,” Kittrell said. “With a grand jury of 25 people, it’s difficult to get everybody socially distanced and impossible to have 10 people or less.”
Foil, 34, remains at the Marion County Correctional Facility on charges of murder, arson, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault and contempt of court in the Feb. 22, 2019, death of Martin Shane Lewis, who was discovered in a burning car in Kokomo.
Mitchell, 30, is also still jailed on charges of second degree murder, child abuse and possession of a controlled substance, stemming from the shooting death of her husband, Shawn “Chunk” Mitchell, on Jan. 4, 2019, in their home on Dale Street.
In the Foil case, Kittrell said his office is also still awaiting autopsy results, and it usually doesn’t proceed with cases like that without the autopsy in hand. The medical examiner’s office at the state crime lab has had a difficult time retaining medical examiners because of their salaries, leading to the office continually being understaffed and having a hard time keeping up with autopsies, he said.
“They’re down to two (medical examiners). We’re held up. On murder cases, more often than not what takes them so long in the process is to get the autopsy. Sometimes it takes as long as a year and a half before we get them in,” he explained. “That’s coupled with the fact, even if we got the autopsy today with the rest of the case being ready to go and just needing to plug in the autopsy with the file review we have now we’d be ready to go to grand jury, but we can’t convene grand jury.”