The Pigford Killings: Double-Murder, Double-Cross, and Decapitation in the Delta

As we have been chronicling in our Pigford coverage this week, the amount of evidence suggesting massive fraud is staggering and will continue to build and build.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack came out last week to say there have only been three cases of fraud out of the 20,000 claims.

Well Mr. Vilsack, why don’t you try this on for size? And by the way, we will be bringing more crime rings your way very soon.

All excerpts from the Mississippi Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi:

Suspect admits she OK’d slaying

Date: Jan 13, 2006

By Jimmie Gates

Two days after she denied knowing that federal witness Clovis Reed would be killed, Levon Edmond admitted Thursday that she agreed to the slaying and alleged one of her accomplices had killed another woman earlier.

The second woman’s body is buried in the same area where Reed’s headless and handless corpse was found in Simpson County in 2003, Edmond told U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.


Edmond, 43, also revealed an unnamed co-conspirator in Reed’s death, and within hours, the FBI announced the arrest of Joe Lewis Collins, 59, of Magee on a murder charge. His arrest brings to four the number of people charged in Reed’s slaying. A fifth person, Edmond’s daughter, Shunterria Wiggins, 25, of Canton, has pleaded guilty to perjury.

Wingate delayed Edmond’s guilty plea to conspiracy to commit murder Tuesday after she said she knew of plans to beat Reed, 51, of Canton only to scare her out of testifying. Hours later, federal prosecutors said their deal with her was off and they were going to try Edmond with her sister, Kathleen Nelson of Canton, and Nelson’s boyfriend, Roosevelt Walker, on Tuesday before Wingate.

But in an about-face Thursday, Edmond detailed to Wingate how and why Reed was killed.

“Yes, I agreed to it,” Edmond said of having Reed killed. “I know it’s wrong for wanting her dead, but I was p—– off with her because she put the police on me.”

She said Collins and Walker killed Reed to prevent Reed from testifying against Edmond and her sister. The women were accused of embezzling Reed’s $50,000 black farmers’ settlement check in 2001.

But Edmond said both she and her sister and Reed were part of a scam to defraud the federal government of the money from a settlement between black farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Edmond said for every person she brought into the scam, she was scheduled to receive $2,000. The person getting the check would get $16,000, and the rest of the money would be split among others. She brought Reed into the scam, she said.

“She got greedy,” Edmond said. “She wanted it all.”

Reed’s torso was discovered April 4, 2003, in Harrisville, a week before she was to testify in federal court. She was identified through DNA testing.

Edmond accused Collins and another woman named Ebony Scott of setting up the scam. “She is dead now,” Edmond said of Scott.

Edmond said Collins told her he killed Scott before Reed’s death.

Federal prosecutors said Thursday they hadn’t been able to locate Scott, but no one had reported her missing.

But Edmond said the plan was for Collins, a friend of Reed, to pick up Reed, drive to a wooded area and stop the car under the pretext that he had to urinate. Walker would then appear and break the window and beat Reed.

When Wingate asked about the mutilation of Reed’s body, Edmond said Walker held Reed’s head while Collins cut it off.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain said there is no plan to seek an indictment in the scam of the federal settlement because likely the statute of limitation has run out.

“Levon Edmond made it clear that Kathleen Nelson was a minor participant in the agriculture check scam and wasn’t involved in the killing,” Craig said.

The plea agreement calls for Edmond to receive a 25-year sentence on the conspiracy to kill Reed charge. She also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her sentence on that charge is March 22, the same day her daughter will be sentenced. Wiggins faces up to five years in prison for lying to a federal grand jury.

Walker and Nelson face life in prison without parole if convicted in their trial. Collins also faces a life sentence.

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#2

“Search for alleged”

Jan 14, 2006

More information sought on woman defendant says was killed first

By Jimmie E. Gates

A day after Levon Edmond revealed that a second body was buried in a wooded area in Simpson County, authorities on Friday delayed searching for the remains until they could gather more information.

Edmond told a federal judge Thursday that Ebony Scott and Clovis Reed were killed by the same person. Reed’s headless and handless body was found on April 4, 2003, in the same general location where Scott’s body allegedly is buried.

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#3) Accused man avoids death penalty; trial set March 31

The Clarion Ledger – Jackson, Miss.

Author: Jimmie E Gates

Date: Jan 30, 2008

Joe Lewis Collins of Magee is accused of chopping off the head and hands of a federal government witness, but he won’t face the death penalty when he goes to trial March 31 in federal court in Jackson.

The U.S. Department of Justice didn’t certify it as a death-penalty case, Collins’ attorney, Rob McDuff, said Tuesday.

Clovis Reed’s mutilated corpse was found in a wooded area of Simpson County in 2003.

Kathleen Nelson and her boyfriend, Roosevelt Walker, of Canton were convicted in February 2006 for conspiracy to commit murder in Reed’s death. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate sentenced them to life in prison. Both have appealed.

In a plea agreement, Nelson’s sister, Levon Edmond, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 25 years.

Prosecutors said Reed, of Canton, was killed to prevent her from testifying against Nelson and Edmond in a federal embezzlement trial. The women were accused of embezzling Reed’s $50,000 black farmers’ settlement check in 2001.

But testimony during Nelson and Walker’s trial said the $50,000 settlement check was a scam and that Reed was part of the effort to defraud the government.

Last year, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials scoured the area not far from where Reed’s corpse was found. They found human bones, which may have a link to the Reed case. Authorities identified the remains as Ebony Scott of Jonesboro, Ga.

During her guilty plea, Edmond implicated Collins in Reed’s death and also said he told her he had killed Scott and buried her in the same general area where Reed’s corpse was located. No charges have been filed as of yet in Scott’s death.

***

#4) Beheading of federal witness case tried

Author: Jimmie E Gates

Date: Sep 8, 2008

A man accused of decapitating and hacking the hands off a federal witness five years ago is scheduled for trial today in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

Joe Lewis Collins, 61, of Magee is charged with murder in the 2003 slaying of Clovis Reed of Canton.

Reed’s body was found April 4, 2003, in a wooded area in Simpson County a week before she was scheduled to testify in an embezzlement case.

“It was just terrible,” Viola Travis of Jackson said of her sister’s killing. Travis said her family will attend the trial.

Kathleen Nelson and her boyfriend, Roosevelt Walker, both of Canton, were convicted in February 2006 of conspiracy to commit murder in Reed’s death and sentenced to life in prison.

Levon Edmond, also of Canton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 25 years in 2006. Nelson and Edmond are sisters.

Prosecutors say the crime was conceived to prevent Reed from testifying that Nelson and Edmond embezzled Reed’s $50,000 settlement check from the black farmers lawsuit in 2001. Checks were distributed to black farmers nationwide as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Collins was implicated during Edmond’s plea hearing. She said Walker held Reed’s head as Collins cut it off.

During Edmond’s plea hearing, she said Collins admitted killing another woman, Ebony Scott of Jonesboro, Ga., and leaving her remains in the area where Reed was discovered.

***

#5) Jurors in decapitation trial view gruesome photos

Author: Jimmie E Gates

Date: Sept. 11, 2008

Gruesome pictures of the decapitated corpse of a federal witness was displayed Wednesday in the federal trial of the man accused of killing her.

Joe Lewis Collins, 61, of Magee is charged with murder in the 2003 slaying of Clovis Reed, 51, of Canton. Her body was found April 4, 2003, in a wooded area of Simpson County a week before she was scheduled to testify in an embezzlement trial.

Luther Crownober said he was inspecting his bee hives off Old River Road when he saw what he thought was some kind of animal carcass.

“I jumped back and started backing away when I realized it was a human body,” Crownober said.

Crownober said he tried to call authorities but couldn’t get his cell phone to work in the wooded area. He then drove to a house down the road and used the telephone to call the Sheriff’s Department.

During Crownober’s testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain asked that pictures of Reed’s headless and handless corpse be shown to the jury.

Collins’ court appointed attorney, Rob McDuff, objected to the pictures being shown.

But Chief U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate allowed the display. Two people left the courtroom to avoid viewing the photos after Wingate cautioned spectators

McDuff had argued the pictures could inflame the jury and be prejudicial to his client.

Prosecutors have said they may try to link Collins to the death of another woman.

During Edmond’s plea hearing, she said Collins admitted killing Ebony Scott of Jonesboro, Ga., and leaving her remains in the area near where Reed’s were discovered.

***

6) ‘Little butcher’ gets life for murder

Author: Jimmie E Gates

Date: Dec 6, 2008

The man referred to in court testimony as “little butcher” will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering a federal witness and decapitating her and hacking off her hands.

With his eyeglasses perched on the top of his head, Joe Lewis Collins was emotionless Friday when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to life in prison without parole.

After the sentencing, Clovis Reed’s sister, Viola Travis of Jackson, said she was overjoyed.

Collins, 61, of Magee was convicted in September of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the 2003 slaying of Clovis Reed, 51, of Canton.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain asked King if he knew about other prior criminal charges against Collins, including his conviction for simple assault for hitting a person across the neck with a machete.

King said he didn’t know about the other charges.

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