L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press, November 9, 2007
Detroiter Jimmie Reed Jr. is to spend the rest of his life in prison after a judge found him guilty of shooting his ex-girlfriend to death in her Pontiac apartment, then setting their newborn baby on fire in an apparent attempt to avoid paying child support.
Both Reed’s family and that of the victims, Markeda Byas, 31, and 2-month-old Arctavia Reed, cried as Judge Fred Mester pronounced Reed, 31, guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, arson and using a firearm to commit a felony.
Mester, a judge for 26 years, struggled with his emotions as he delivered the verdict.
He said the 2-day trial showed that Reed killed Byas intentionally, and then returned several hours later and doused the bed where she and the baby lay with gasoline and set it on fire. The baby died of burns and smoke inhalation.
Pontiac Detective Darrin McAllister, a 15-year veteran who investigated the murders and obtained a confession from Reed two days later, still was shaken from the trial.
“I still have trouble sleeping at night,” he said. “I still have a bad time with it.”
A judge found Jimmie Reed Jr. of Detroit guilty of multiple counts—including first-degree murder—for shooting his girlfriend and then burning their baby girl alive.
He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Reed, 31, admitted to police that he shot his 31-year-old girlfriend, Markeda Byas, in the head as she slept in the early morning hours of July 20, 2006, at an apartment in Pontiac, saying it was an accident.
Prosecutors said Reed then placed 2-month-old Arctavia Reed in her dead mother’s arms and returned hours later with gasoline, poured it on the baby, lit a match and continued to pour as the baby screamed.
“It is probably one of the most heinous homicides I’ve seen,” Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Barbara Morrison said.
But Morrison said the evidence showed that the loaded gun had to be pointed directly to Byas’ head.
“That’s called an execution,” she said.
Morrison said—and Oakland Circuit Judge Fred Mester agreed—that Reed had ample time to pause and rethink his actions.
Morrison said that after Reed shot Byas, he took another woman to a doctor, went to another woman’s house, took a nap and went to work.
Reed told police in an interview played in court that he went to a Meijer store on his work break and bought jogging pants and a T-shirt, into which he would later change.
He went back to Meijer after work and bought a gas can, gum and a water bottle.
Prosecutors said Reed filled the gas can and later poured the gas into the water bottle so as to not raise suspicion when he took it into Byas’ apartment.
“My baby woke up,” Reed said as he cried in the police interview. “I thought she was dead already.”
Byas, whose body also burned, died from the gunshot wound. Arctavia died from smoke and soot inhalation.
Morrison said that Reed—who has children with other women—became distant with Byas when she became pregnant and never fulfilled promises to pay her rent and move with her into a house in Detroit.
Reed will be sentenced Dec. 12.