Birt Ross says guilty, handed life term

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Birt Ross, right, is led away from the Warren County Courthouse by Sheriff Martin Pace. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[05/01/01] William “Birt” Ross admitted Tuesday that he strangled his 25-year-old estranged wife and buried her body. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

Ross V, 28, of 4309 Campbell Swamp Road, admitted that he used a piece of rope on Jan. 25 to kill Virginia “Angel” Massey Ross.

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Her family and scores of volunteers rallied to search for her for about a week after her disappearance while Birt Ross insisted he didn’t know where she was.

The sentence from Warren County Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor means Ross, who made no comment when the plea of guilty was entered, will be eligible for consideration for medical parole at age 65.

No presentence investigation was needed because the life in prison is the mandatory term.

Cheryl Bradley, a cousin of Angel Ross, said the sentence does little to ease the family’s pain.

“We are never going to get over this,” she said. “His family can still see him, but we don’t have her anymore because she is in a graveyard.”

Ross could have faced a death sentence if Warren County grand jurors, to be convened Monday, indicted him on murder plus kidnapping charges.

Warren County District Attorney Gil Martin said Ross’ crime was an example of domestic violence taken to the extreme.

“This was just a horrendous crime and now he must pay the price,” Martin said.

Vicksburg attorney Eugene A. Perrier, who represented Ross, said the guilty plea wasn’t an effort to avoid the death penalty.

“He has indicated to me from the beginning that this was what he wanted to do,” Perrier said. “He didn’t want to wait any longer than he had to.”

Ross was arrested Feb. 2, an hour after his wife’s body was found and eight days after he buried her 10 feet deep near the banks of the Big Black River near Bovina Cut-Off Road.

The day of her death, Birt Ross, had met his wife of six years at the Vicksburg branch of Hinds Community College, where she was a student.

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

“He had been stalking her and following for a month,” Bradley said.

She said that Angel Ross had filed a restraining order against her husband after leaving him and renting a mobile home on Glass Road.

After killing his wife and burying her body, family members said, Birt Ross attended a pool tournament in Memphis and returned two days later.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said investigators became suspicious because he was not consistent about where he said he was on the night his estranged wife disappeared.

In a statement to detectives, Ross said he parked his Ford Bronco near the campus and walked to the school to meet his wife. He told police he waited by her car with a flashlight, a roll of duct tape and a piece of rope.

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 then told her to drive to a deserted spot near the Big Black where he strangled her. After burying her he drove her car back to the school and left it later that night.

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.

Investigators testified earlier that Ross told a co-worker he wanted Angel Ross dead, so he wouldn’t have to pay her child support.

Bradley said Angel Ross’ family now wants to make sure her killer can’t have contact with the couple’s three children.

“He has said he wants to see them because he wants to explain to them what happened,” she said.

Angel Ross’ parents, Charles and Mary Massey have custody of the children.

Friends of Angel Ross organized and held a benefit at City Park Pavilion last month to raise money for the children’s education.