- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - A Hattiesburg man accused in the 2015 slayings of Hattiesburg Police Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate pleaded guilty Thursday in Forrest County Circuit Court.

WDAM-TV (https://bit.ly/2b23ZbH ) reports Curtis Banks, 27, entered the plea to accessory after the fact of capital murder in connection to the May 9, 2015 murders.

Circuit Judge Bob Helfrich sentenced Banks to the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Banks had a pending 2013 sale of a controlled substance charge to which he pleaded guilty to as well and was sentenced to five years. District Attorney Patricia Burchell said the penalties will run at the same time.

Banks was accused of helping his brother, Marvin Banks, after the shootings, avoid arrest. Marvin Banks was the alleged triggerman in the officers’ deaths.

“With the intent to avoid arrest, trial and conviction or punishment after the commission of such felony, by transporting the said Marvin Banks from the area of the crime and providing him with lodging at the Northgate Inn in Hattiesburg,” his indictment reads.

Marvin Banks was found dead in his cell at the Forrest County Jail on Dec. 11, 2015, from apparent heart disease. Another suspect in the case, Jimmy Brady, 23, pleaded guilty in June to the sale of a stolen firearm, which was used to kill the officers. He was sentenced to five years.

During Thursday’s plea hearing, family members addressed Curtis Banks.

“Why, was it worth it, and if you had to do all over again would you?” asked Tate’s mother, Youlander Ross. “I hope that before you take your last breath that you find Jesus, I really do.”

Banks stared back as she continued speaking. “I wanted you to see my tears and see what you have done, this is what we have to live with for the rest of our lives,” Ross said.

Benjamin Deen’s father also addressed the court, speaking directly to the defendant.

“I wonder if you have any idea how many people you and your brother and the rest of those devils have destroyed,” Dan Deen said. “Totally and absolutely destroyed, do you have any feelings at all?”

Banks, on the advice of his attorney, apologized to the families.

Trial dates are pending for six other suspects in the shootings.

___

Information from: WDAM-TV, https://www.wdam.com

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