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No bond for man accused of murdering estranged wife

Sheriff Martin Pace walks Birt Ross back to the Warren County jail Thursday after Ross was denied bond in county court. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/16/01] A Warren County Sheriff’s Department detective testified Thursday that Birt Ross told a co-worker he was going to kill his estranged wife so he wouldn’t have to pay child support.

Detective Billy Joe Heggins Jr. said Derek Tillotson, who worked with Ross at Tillotson Construction, told investigators that Ross also told him he wanted to assure he received custody of his three children.

Heggins was the only witness during a 45-minute hearing Thursday in Warren County Court to determine if Ross would continue to be held without bond. No bond was granted.

Ross, 27, 4309 Campbell Swamp Road, is accused of kidnapping and killing his wife, 25-year-old wife Virginia “Angel” Massey Ross, on Jan. 25 and burying her body under 12 feet of mud near the banks of the Big Black River.

Angel Ross’ body was unearthed eight days after she was last seen leaving a class at Hinds Community College, where she was a student. Birt Ross was arrested about an hour after the body was found.

Heggins testified that initially Birt Ross denied that he was with Angel Ross the night she disappeared, but after his arrest he admitted that he had killed her.

Heggins said Ross told authorities he parked his Ford Bronco near the campus and waited for his wife to come out of class.

“He said he waited by her car with a flashlight, a roll of duct tape and a piece of rope,” Heggins said.

Heggins said Ross told police when Angel Ross walked up to her car he told her that he wanted to talk, and he sat in the back seat behind her while she drove.

“He said he told her to go to Duncan Road and when they got there he threw the rope over her neck and pulled,” Heggins said.

Autopsy results released Feb. 5 show Angel Ross had been strangled with a piece of rope the same night she was last seen.

The former Vicksburg High School student and mother of three was reported missing by her parents after she didn’t return from the night class.

Angel Ross had left her husband of six years about a month before she was killed and had rented a mobile home on Glass Road. Heggins said Angel Ross had filed an order to obtain a temporary restraining order for protection against her husband on Jan. 10.

Heggins said Ross admitted to taking Angel Ross’ car back to the Hinds campus and returning in his Bronco to Duncan Road, which is off of Bovina Cut-Off Road, and burying his estranged wife.

A search of the area where Birt Ross worked as a heavy-equipment operator was not possible the weekend of the disappearance because of heavy rains, but when deputies were able to search it, they discovered a spot that had recently been disturbed and found the body of the missing woman.

Warren County Sheriff Martin 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.

After the hearing Thursday morning, Warren County Court Judge Gerald Hosemann found there was enough evidence to send Ross’ case to the May grand jury. Separately, he ruled Ross would continue to be held without bond in the Warren County Jail.

Ross, who is represented by Vicksburg attorney Eugene Perrier, is facing a possible death sentence if the grand jury indicts him on a capital murder charge, but it will depend on whether grand jurors believe an independent violent felony, kidnapping, was committed along with murder.

Murder convictions in Mississippi are punished by life in prison without parole.