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Ross could get death penalty in wife’s death, DA says

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace leads murder suspect Birt Ross out of Warren County Court Monday. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[02/06/01] Birt Ross, accused of killing his 25-year-old estranged wife, could be executed for the crime, District Attorney Gil Martin said.

“It will be up to the May grand jury on whether he is indicted on a capital murder charge,” Martin said of William “Birt” Ross V, 27, 4309 Campbell Swamp Road, who was arrested Friday and appeared in court for the first time Monday.

Although extremely rare, the death penalty is possible when a spouse kills a spouse in Mississippi. It will depend on whether grand jurors believe an independent violent felony, such as kidnapping, was committed along with murder.

Martin said he will present the facts and let grand jurors decide. Murder convictions in Mississippi are punished by life in prison without parole.

Ross is accused of kidnapping and killing his estranged wife, Virginia “Angel” Massey Ross, on Jan. 25 and burying her body about 10 feet deep near the banks of the Big Black River near Bovina Cut-Off Road.

Angel Ross’ body was unearthed eight days after she was last seen, and Birt Ross was arrested about an hour later.

On Monday, Ross appeared before Warren County Court Judge Gerald Hosemann to hear the formal charges against him. He is being held in the Warren County Jail without bond.

With his and his wife’s families looking on, Ross said he understood the murder and kidnapping charges against him.

Judge Hosemann appointed Vicksburg attorney Eugene Perrier to handle Ross’ defense. The next court date will depend on Perrier.

As Birt Ross was escorted from the courtroom, Angel Ross’ father, Charles Massey, who was seated near the front of the audience, said aloud, “I hope you burn in hell, you hear me?”

Birt Ross’ family refused any comment.

Autopsy results released earlier Monday show Angel Ross had been strangled with a piece of rope Jan. 25, the same night she was last seen at the Vicksburg branch of Hinds Community College, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

The former Vicksburg High School student was reported missing by her parents after she didn’t return from her Thursday night class.

The mother of three left her husband of six years about a month ago and had rented a mobile home on Glass Road. Pace said that Angel Ross had filed to obtain a temporary restraining order for protection against her husband on Jan. 10.

The night she was last seen Angel Ross told her geology teacher that she had to leave class early and asked for the next week’s assignment.

Family members said that Birt Ross left that same day to attend a pool tournament in Memphis. He returned two days later.

Pace said investigators became suspicious of Birt Ross because he was not consistent about where he said he was on the night his estranged wife disappeared.

Authorities believe Birt Ross parked his vehicle near the campus and walked to the school to meet his wife. Pace said he believed the two left in Angel Ross’ car and Birt Ross strangled her, buried her body and returned her car to the school on Mississippi 27 later that night.

Heavy rains the weekend of the disappearance had flooded the area where Birt Ross had worked as a heavy-equipment operator, but when deputies were able to search it, they discovered a spot that had recently been disturbed and found the body of the missing women, Pace said.

Services for Ross were set for Tuesday at Glenwood Funeral Home. Burial was to follow at Green Acres Memorial Park.