Three men arrested, charged with capital murder in shooting death of Ole Miss grad student

Zacharias McClendon
Zacharias McClendon

OXFORD, Mississippi (AP) — Sheriff’s deputies have arrested three men in the killing of a University of Mississippi graduate student.

The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department says the arrested men are 22-year old Steven Matthew Wilbanks of Burnsville, N.C., 24-year-old Derick Boone of Laurel and 20-year-old Joseph Lyons of Houston, Texas.

It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the men had lawyers. They were being held in the Lafayette County jail Thursday.

They are charged with capital murder in the killing of 25-year-old Zacharias Herculese McClendon of Gulfport. Deputies found McClendon dead with a single gunshot in the early hours of Wednesday morning when they were asked to check on him at his duplex on Levee Road, just north of the Oxford city limits.

McClendon was in his first year of studying for a master’s of business administration degree.

Sheriff’s investigator Alan Wilburn tells The Oxford Eagle the men robbed, then shot McClendon. Wilburn says the men then drove McClendon’s SUV through Oxford, parking it at a gas station on Mississippi 6 at the town’s western edge.

“Surveillance video at the gas station linked them to the vehicle,” Wilburn said. He said the SUV was taken to Jackson to be examined by forensic technicians.

Like McClendon, Wilbanks and Boone are Ole Miss students, with Wilbanks majoring in French and Boone majoring in banking and finance, according to university spokesman Danny Blanton. Lyons was last enrolled at Ole Miss in spring 2011 as a theater arts major, but dropped out, Blanton said.

Prior to attending Ole Miss, McClendon graduated from Massachusetts’ Williams College in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. His eighth grade teacher, Georgia Anne Faneca, told the Sun Herald that McClendon also received two degrees from Mississippi College in Clinton in a related field and was an apprentice for an orthopedic surgeon at New Orleans’ Tulane University while in college.

“He liked the challenge of learning,” Faneca said.

McClendon was a 2006 graduate of Gulfport High School.

“We feel pain and loss any time one of our students is taken from us,” Ole Miss Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends and we, as a university family, will do all that we can to support them.”