Body found here identified; three jailed in Rankin County|[12/30/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

The body unearthed in a rural Warren County cemetery this week was that of a Rankin County man killed by his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend and another man in March 2002, Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said Thursday.

Further, Pennington said, no one had reported the victim missing and the death likely would have remained unnoticed had those involved not spoken up.

The body belonged to Jonathan LeBatard, 28 at the time of his death, and a resident of Florence.

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Officials from the Rankin and Warren county sheriff’s departments were led to his remains in a shallow hole dug into an existing grave in Old Sadler Cemetery off Hankinson Road near the Claiborne County line Tuesday afternoon.

Walter Brewer, 30, Duke Road, Utica, and Chad Murry, 37, King’s Cove, Florence, are now charged with the murder.

LeBatard’s girlfriend, Renee Curlee, 31, Poplar Springs Road, Florence, was charged with accessory after the fact.

Pennington said Brewer, a former boyfriend of Curlee’s, and Murry drove to her home in Florence on the day LeBatard was killed. When they arrived, Curlee met them outside and told them LeBatard, still inside, had been abusive to her, Pennington said. Murry then went inside to confront LeBatard and emerged after a struggle with blood on his hands and clothes. All three then went inside, Pennington said, where they turned a bloody but breathing LeBatard on his back before Brewer allegedly stabbed him once.

The three then reportedly wrapped LeBatard’s body in a blanket and plastic and drove to the cemetery, which Brewer knew from his days as a resident of Warren County, Pennington said.

Tuesday, Brewer led officials to the body after several months in custody. He was originally in the Rankin County Jail on a hold for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, Pennington said, and apparently confessed to the murder out of guilt.

&#8220Brewer maintained his innocence for a long time,” Pennington said. &#8220Then he called one of our investigators in and said, ‘I just want to get this behind me, do my time and face up to it.’”

Murry had also been in the custody of the Rankin County Sheriff’s Department for a burglary. Curlee was arrested Wednesday night, Pennington said.

All three remained in the Rankin County Jail Thursday. Brewer was being held on a $500,000 bond, and Curlee’s bond was set at $50,000. Murry was being held without bond.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said he had been unable to determine who was buried deeper in the grave, perhaps before the Civil War. That portion of the grave, however, was not disturbed, Pace said.