Two men charged with 2013 murder of Ole Miss student still awaiting trial

Published 12:00 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

University of Mississippi graduate student Zacharias Hercules McClendon was shot and killed almost three years ago. Two of the three men charged with his murder are still awaiting trial after one pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Derick Boone, 25, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in April after pleading guilty two days into his trial. Boone was arrested in 2013 along with Steven Wilbanks, 25, of North Carolina and Joseph Lyons, 23, of Houston, Texas for McClendon’s murder.

During Boone’s trial, it was revealed that Wilbanks told police he was the one who actually pulled the trigger, but claimed Lyons and Boone knew what he was going to do on Dec. 18, 2013, when they walked across the parking lot from the apartment the three shared to McClendon’s apartment on County Road 140, just off College Hill Road. According to the state, the three went inside McClendon’s apartment and hung around for a bit before Wilbanks shot him in the back of the head with a 16-gauge shotgun.

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The state also claims the three men then stole McClendon’s 2004 Nissan along with clothing, electronics, and textbooks, selling the latter. The three were picked up a few hours later by police and arrested for capital murder and grand theft.

Lyons’ attorney, Ken Coghlan has filed multiple motions since June.

“No trial date yet, but we have a huge day of motion hearings scheduled for Oct. 20, but that date could be moved

up if the attorneys and the judge can get a date quicker,” Coghlan said in an email.

The most recent motion asks the court to force the state’s to hand over all cell phones taken into evidence from Wilbanks, Lyons and Boone, and for the state to reveal what witnesses have been given any type of agreement in exchange for their testimony.

“State witnesses will be an important issue in the trial of this case and evidence of any understanding or agreement as to the past or future prosecution, immunity, remuneration, or the like, will be relevant to such witness’ credibility, and the jury is entitled to know of it,” the motion states.

While Wilbanks allegedly admitted to shooting McClendon, he has not yet pleaded guilty. No motions or activity have been filed in the court on his behalf since 2014.

McClendon, a first-year graduate student originally from Gulfport, was pursuing a Master’s of Business Administration at Ole Miss. Prior to attending Ole Miss, McClendon graduated from Williams College in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

He was an apprentice for an orthopedic surgeon at Tulane University while in college.