Indictments escalate charges in Pearl case

The Sun Herald/1997
By Gina Holland

Pearl -- More serious charges were lodged Thursday against two teens accused of playing behind-the-scene roles in a double slaying at Pearl High School.

Grant Boyette and Justin Sledge were originally charged with murder conspiracy. Grand jury indictments released Thursday charge each with two counts of accessory before the fact of murder, a crime punishable by life in prison.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that Boyette was the ringleader of a group known as the "Kroth" which sought to destroy its enemies and practiced satanic worship.

For months the group plotted a plan to raid Pearl High and member Luke Woodham was to be an assassin, Investigator Greg Eklund said Tuesday in Boyette's preliminary hearing.

Woodham, 16, is charged with three counts of murder in the Oct. 1 deaths of his mother and two Pearl students, including his ex-girlfriend.

The indictment alleges that Boyette and Sledge met several times with Woodham to convince him "that murder was a viable means of accomplishing the purposes and goals of the shared belief system."

Boyette, 18, and Sledge, 16, were guilty of "joining in a conspiracy with Luke Woodham to kill students at Pearl High School," the grand jury said.

Eklund testified in court this week that Woodham's former girlfriend Christina Menefee was targeted.

"On many, many occasions, he (Boyette) told Luke Woodham that he should just kill her and be done with it so he won't have to see her again," Eklund said.

Authorities said Menefee was the first person Woodham shot in a crowded school commons area before classes Oct. 1. One other student was killed and seven others injured.

Also in the hearing, longtime Boyette friend Rick Brown said Boyette was fascinated by the manipulation abilities of Adolf Hitler. Brown said he feared that Boyette, a freshman at a nearby community college, had an influence on the younger Woodham.

"Luke was a social recluse all his life. I thought he would be easy to control and easy to manipulate," Brown said.

In five-page handwritten note police described as Woodham's manifesto, Woodham writes, "... throughout my life I was ridiculed. Always beaten, always hated. Can you, society, truly blame me for what I do?"

Woodham then crossed out the words "No, you can't," and wrote, "Yes, you will, the ratings wouldn't be high enough if you didn't, and it wouldn't make good gossip for all the old ladies."

He finishes the page with "Grant, see you in the holding cell!"

Authorities said they obtained the notebook paper sheets from Sledge.

Before his arrest, Sledge said Woodham handed him the notes shortly before opening fire at the school. Sledge said the notes were intended for Boyette.

Assistant district attorney Jim Kelly would not comment Thursday on the new charges or say if other indictments are expected in the case. Four other teens were charged last week with murder conspiracy.

Attorneys for Boyette and Sledge did not return phone calls.

The two teens will have court appearances Friday before a Rankin County judge on the newest charges. Murder conspiracy charges carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison. The penalty for accessory to murder is the same as murder, life in prison.

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