Thursday, March 30, 2023

Defendants Boone, Wilbanks Apologize to Family of Murdered Ole Miss Student

The trial for murder of Zacharias McClendon took place at Lafayette Courthouse.
The trial for murder of Zacharias McClendon took place at Lafayette Courthouse.

On December 17, 2013, a joking conversation turned into a serious consideration as three former Ole Miss students contemplated robbing and killing a fellow student. What started as a joke turned into a nightmare ending in the death of Zacharius McClendon.

Zacharias McClendon
Zacharias McClendon

Yesterday, Derick Boone pleaded guilty to the 2013 murder of former Ole Miss student Zacharius McClendon. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Boone will be serving his sentence at the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Boone was only one of the three charged with Capital Murder. The two co-defendants, Steven Wilbanks and Joseph Lyons have yet to stand trial.

In Boone’s defense, attorneys Thomas C. Levidiotis and Leroy Davis Percy argued that Boone was not responsible for the murder of McClendon because he didn’t pull the trigger. Their argument supported that that he did, in fact, aid in stealing McClendon’s belongings, but Boone allegedly advised Wilbanks not to kill the victim.

Derick Boone
Derick Boone

That argument was challenged by a confession given from co-defendant, Steven Matthew Wilbanks. Wilbanks took the stand to testify that he, along with Boone and co-defendant Lyons, planned the murder together. Wilbanks confessed that he and Lyons were highly intoxicated on LSD and marijuana when the murder took place, but Boone was not.

“If anyone would’ve said no, especially Mr. Boone, we wouldn’t have gone through with it. My sole intention is to atone from what we’ve done, and to apologize for what we’ve done. I want to let the record show that we planned this together. We were all in this together,” Wilbanks said.

It wasn’t long after this statement that Boone pleaded guilty to the murder of McClendon.

Steven Wilbanks
Steven Wilbanks

The morning of his murder, McClendon spoke with his mother at approximately 10:30 a.m., according to opening statements made by plaintiff attorney Benjamin F. Creekmore. They discussed his approximate time to leave and when he’d be home back home in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was only an hour later that McClendon was visited by Boone and co-defendants Wilbanks and Lyons.

The defendants allegedly knew the victim.

In Creekmore’s opening statement, the attorney said, “We believe evidence will show at 11:30 a.m… Boone, along with Wilbanks and Lyons, went over to McClendon’s apartment. We will show that they were there for approximately two hours and 15 minutes…”

After sitting and talking with McClendon for some time, Wilbanks allegedly took the shot gun he had, placed it at the base of McClendon’s neck and pulled the trigger.

“They robbed him a great deal of personal possessions. They robbed him of Christmas gifts that he planned to take home for Christmas, his clothes, his shoes, his keyboard, electronics; a number of things to use for personal possession or financial gain,” Creekmore said.

After killing the victim, Boone with co-defendants Wilbanks and Lyons allegedly stole McClendon’s car as well. According to Creekmore, the three went to Wal-Mart to get a battery for the car and a tool set. A lot of the purchases were made with McClendon’s credit card. When McClendon’s car was found, it was at Chevron in west Oxford. Additionally, the books that were taken from McClendon’s home were sold by Boone at a bookstore.

“After the murder, they went home and showered, and got ready,” Creekmore said in his statement. “From 3:30 p.m. to approximately 9:30 p.m. that night, they spent time between La Paz and their home… played video games. They pretty much just hung out.”

The trial ended in an uproar of tears. As Boone’s family mourned their loss, the victim’s family mourned as well. Boone admitted that what he did was a horrible thing and said that he hoped the family could move on with their lives after this.

Boone’s trial came to an end after only four days of proceeding. The first two days, Monday and Tuesday, were for jury selection. Wednesday followed with opening statements from the prosecutor and defense attorneys and then yesterday marked the trial’s end with Boone’s plea.

“I wish this trial could be condensed into a shorter term, and be required for any student enrolled at the University of Mississippi, to inform them that the choices we make when we’re young, can have devastating consequences. In some ways I feel sorry for you, in some ways I don’t,” Judge Kelly Luther said in closing.

Co-defendants Steven Wilbanks and Joseph Lyons are awaiting trial.

Mia Sims is a intern. She can be reached at Payton Green contributed to this story and can be reached at

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor. She can be reached at

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