A Concordia Parish man was sentenced to life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence last week for the murder of 27-year-old school teacher Fredrick “Little Fred” McCray Jr. of Clayton.
Judge John Reeves sentenced Sedrick Tennessee on Jan. 26.
The murder occurred during the commission of an armed robbery.
Tennessee, the second defendant convicted in the June 23, 2019 shooting death of McCray Jr., was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 17 following 17 minutes of deliberations.
In November, a jury found 49-year-old Jimmie O’Neal Lewis guilty of first degree murder in the case. During two confessions to police, Lewis testified that he was the shooter.
In both trials, the jury’s guilty verdicts were unanimous.
Burget and 1st Assistant District Attorney Joey Boothe prosecuted both Lewis and Tennessee.
They published 226 exhibits during the Tennessee trial, compared to 221 during the trial of Lewis.
Lewis, who did not testify in his trial in November, testified during the trial of Tennessee.
During the sentencing last week, members of McCray’s family gave victim impact statements.
The McCray family placed much of the blame for the murder on Tennessee, according to Boothe.
“The family was hurt by the senselessness of the fact that a young man lost his life for no reason,” Boothe said. “They were hurt at Tennessee’s betrayal because he (Tennessee) knew McCray,” even though Jimmie O’Neal Lewis was the shooter.
Boothe said during the trial it was revealed that McCray, called “Little Fred” by family and friends, had referred to Tennessee as “Uncle Sed.”
Testimony revealed that during a conversation before the shooting when McCray agreed to provide Tennessee and Lewis a ride, McCray told Lewis, “I don’t know you, but I know Uncle Sed, so you can ride with me.”
Boothe said McCray placed his faith in Tennessee.
McCray’s grandmother, Phyllis Ellis, said McCray was an inspiration to his family and friends.
His mother, Carol Williams, who talked about the grief and pain caused by the murder, also told Tennessee that she would pray for his soul.
McCray’s father, Fred McCray Sr., told Tennessee he was getting what he deserved.
Tennessee apologized for his actions during sentencing.
According to testimony provided by the prosecution during the trials of both Lewis and Tennessee, McCray, a school teacher, had attended a Mardi Gras crew fundraiser in Ferriday with his younger sister on June 22. He later drove her home to their mother’s house in Clayton around 1 a.m. on June 23 and then drove to Natchez before texting his mother at 3:30 a.m. that he was on his way home.
But he never arrived.
Police later discovered McCray’s body, which had been thrown into a deep gully and covered with debris, wood and trash. The location was near Will’s Place and next to an abandoned building near Bayou Levee Road in Ferriday.
McCray had been shot once behind the head above the right ear, the bullet exiting his left jaw in an execution style shooting.
During the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation, officers were able to connect Tennessee and Lewis to the murder.
During questioning, Lewis, in an emotional statement, admitted he and Tennessee were carrying out a robbery plan when he (Lewis) shot McCray. He said they had flagged McCray down as he drove by and asked him for a ride to Clayton. As they drove along, Lewis asked McCray to stop the vehicle—a 2012 black Audi SUV – so that Lewis could urinate.
When McCray stopped the vehicle, Lewis, who was sitting in the rear passenger seat, pulled out a .40 caliber Glock pistol and demanded McCray’s money. McCray, however, began to fight with Tennessee who was sitting on the passenger side of the front seat. Lewis told McCray twice to stop. When he didn’t, Lewis pointed the gun in the back of McCray’s head and pulled the trigger.
Burget pointed out that McCray was killed during the commission of an armed robbery and that although Tennessee was not the shooter, the commission of an armed robbery resulting in death constitutes murder.
After the shooting, Lewis and Tennessee disposed of the body.
McCray had two bachelor’s degrees as well as two master’s degrees, one in Biblical Psychology and one in Organization Leadership.
Both Boothe and DA Burget thanked the jury for participating in the trial, noting the disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of life, including court proceedings.
They both expressed their appreciation for the cooperation and participation of the McCray family from the time of the murder through the murder trials.
“Without community involvement, we would not be able to have a jury trial,” Burget said. “We appreciate the jury and appreciate them showing up during a pandemic.”
He said the state Supreme Court has shut down all trials through March 1, 2021, due to the virus.
He said trials will be scheduled this year for six murders in the Seventh Judicial District – three in Concordia and three in Catahoula.