Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers

Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Man Gets 25 Years in Fatal Shooting, Assault

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — A fatal shooting during a robbery four years ago lands a Columbus man in prison.

Lee Major Wilder Jr., 22, pleaded guilty today in Lowndes County Circuit Court to the reduced charge of manslaughter in the Sept. 17, 2008 death of 29-year-old Cornelius Cunningham outside an apartment on 14th Avenue North in Columbus. Wilder originally was charged with capital murder and could have received life without parole.

Wilder admitted to robbing and shooting Cunningham during a street robbery drug deal.

Judge Lee Howard sentenced Wilder to 20 years on the manslaughter charge and another five years for assaulting a Lowndes County jailer while Wilder was being held their in August 2011. The two sentences run consecutively. Wilder will receive credit for the more than three years he’s been in jail.

The case has been delayed several times for a mental evaluation and because Wilder was mistakenly released in 2010 from a Hinds County jail where he was serving a separate sentence for fleeing a police officer.

Cunningham’s family agreed to the reduced charge in the case. “He (Cunningham) lived by the street and I always knew he would die by the street,” one of his relatives said.

Prosecutors said they worried about putting Cunningham’s mother through the trial because of some things that might be brought up. They also said an evaluation showing Wilder had mild mental retardation and his age also might garner him sympathy from a jury so they opted for a plea agreement.