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Victims' families testify in Mississippi death penalty trial

MAGNOLIA, Miss. — The widow of a sheriff’s deputy testified Wednesday that she lost the love of her life when he was shot to death in 2017 while responding to a call about a domestic disturbance.

The mother of a young man killed in another home that night testified that her life is a “daily struggle.”

The widow, Tressie Hall Durr, and the mother, Tiffany Blackwell, testified before jurors who will decide whether to sentence Willie Cory Godbolt to death. The same jurors on Tuesday convicted Godbolt of killing Lincoln County deputy sheriff William Durr, 18-year-old Jordan Blackwell and six other people in May 2017.

Godbolt, 37, was convicted of four counts of capital murder, which could carry the death penalty, and four counts of murder, which are punishable by life in prison. In Mississippi, the death penalty can only be ordered by a jury, not a judge. If jurors cannot agree unanimously on the death penalty, the judge will sentence Godbolt to life in prison on the capital murder convictions.

The penalty portion of the trial started Wednesday, with jurors hearing testimony from several people, including victims’ relatives.

Durr, Barbara Mitchell, Toccara May and Brenda May were shot to death at the home of Godbolt’s in-laws on May 27, 2017. People in the home called law enforcement after Godbolt argued with his estranged wife about their children.

“I’ve lost the love of my life,” Tressie Hall Durr testified Wednesday, according to WAPT-TV. “I lost my housemate. … I lost my ballgame partner, because we are avid Mississippi State fans. I lost my travel partner. I lost the one person that I knew, no matter what went on in my life, I could depend on to be there for me.”

According to trial testimony, Blackwell and 11-year-old Austin Edwards were killed at a second home in the early hours of May 28, 2017.

“Our lives have been changed forever,” Tiffany Blackwell told jurors Wednesday. “None of us will ever be the same. It’s a daily struggle just to get up in the morning, but I go on because of my family.”

Ferral Burage and Sheila Burage, a married couple, were shot to death at a third home a few hours later. Godbolt was arrested near a business as he walked from the Burages’ house, investigators said.

The Associated Press