Bond reduced for home-invasion suspect

Staff Writer

A man facing six life sentences if convicted has his bond lowered from $1.25 million to $500,000, but if he's able to make it, he'll have to abide by a number of strict conditions.

With some hesitancy, Clay County Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens lowered the bond Wednesday for 42-year-old Dejuan Upchurch, who is charged with armed robbery, burglary and five counts of kidnapping in connection with a Nov. 29 home invasion on Pine Bluff Road in the Mantee area in far western Clay County.

Upchurch is one of four people, including his 22-year-old son, Hakeem Upchurch, charged in the case.

All four have been indicted by the Clay County Grand Jury and arraigned in Circuit Court this week.

During Wednesday's hearing, the elder Upchurch's court-appointed attorney, Ben Lang, said his client had been working at American Furniture in Chickasaw County before fleeing and suggested prosecutors might have trouble proving some of the charges.

But Assistant District Attorney Scott Rogillio old the judge Upchurch had few ties to the community, has a long criminal history in Michigan dating back to 1995, and although he may have been living in Chickasaw County for as much as a year before the crime, he fled back to Michigan immediately afterwards.

Furthermore, while he may not have been armed during the incident, the two adult victims and one of the co-defendants ID'ed him as being at the scene.

Sheriff's Investigator Jeremy Dubois testified the victims picked Dejuan Upchurch out of a photo lineup.

"One other suspect and the victims placed him there. Then other suspects didn't," Dubois told the judge, noting he wasn't armed but came with the group, left with the group, and never tried to stop the robbery.
"Quite honestly, I don't see anything that gives the court comfort that he is anchored in the state, much less the community," Kitchens said.

"He abandoned his job here to flee to Michigan. His lack of a stable job, his ties to Michigan, his history with law enforcement, the fact he's facing six life sentences plus 25 years, some of the most serious offenses under the law raise serious questions," the judge emphasized.

Kitchens reduced the bond, which had been set in Justice Court, but said if Upchurch makes it, the court is to be notified. Upchurch will have to wear an electronic ankle or wrist monitor, live in Chickasaw County, stay away from the victims and Clay County, and meet other conditions.

Attorneys for the other suspects also are expected to file motions to reduce their clients' bonds.

In addition to Dejuan Upchurch and Hakeem Upchurch, the others indicted are Clarence Mitchell III, 22, and Emmett Buchanan, 44.

They remain in the Clay County Jail on $1,225,000 bonds, although following his decision in Dejuan Upchurch's case, Judge Kitchens agreed to lower the bonds for the younger Upchurch and Mitchell to $500,000 as well.

According to court proceedings, Roger Jones was outside his house when at least part of the group pulled up and asked directions. They returned sometime later and asked him about buying a dog.
Dejuan Upchurch and Mitchell walked with Jones to the rear of the house where Mitchell allegedly pulled a gun and demanded money.

The other two also pulled guns and forced Jones and his wife, Ariel Coleman, inside the house. Jones and Coleman did not tell investigators the elder Upchurch had a gun or came in the house, Dubois said.
They forced the wife and four children, who at the time were ages 6 and 5 and 2-year-old twins, at gunpoint into a closet in the rear bedroom of the brick home.

They made off with $1,150 and a cell phone, according to court documents.

The victims were able to give detectives the names of possible suspects and Clay County investigators, with the help of Houston, Miss. police, arrested three of the suspects but Dejuan Upchurch got away to Michigan, where he eventually was captured by U.S. Marshals.