Last words of murder victim were ‘final gift’ of justice Mississippi detective said after man sentenced in killing

Published 7:05 am Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The final words of a murder victim who died in a Mississippi emergency room in 2019 were a “final gift” of  justice for his family who watched as the man responsible for the killing was sentenced in court Monday.

More than 20 family members of Carlos Taylor stood in court as Desmond Fortenberry accepted a plea deal during a special session in Lawrence County Circuit Court with Judge Anthony Mozingo. A trial was scheduled for later this month, but Fortenberry accepted the deal in return for a likely shorter sentence.

Fortenberry was accused of killing Carlos Taylor on Nov. 20, 2019, on Tyrone Drive in Prentiss.

In the plea agreement Fortenberry was sentenced to 30 years, with 20 years to serve day-for-day.

With emotions high throughout the courtroom, Carlos Taylor’s sister, Phyliss Armstrong, told Fortenberry that the Taylor family forgave him and although they wanted him to receive a life sentence, they wished him to be changed in his long incarceration. Approximately 20 family members of the Taylor family were present in the courtroom, including Taylor’s daughter.

According to officers, Taylor was shot multiple times in the chest, side and neck, but was but able to talk when he arrived at the Jefferson Davis Community Hospital emergency room.

Taylor gave his account of what occurred during the shooting to Browning in the ER before he died from his injuries a short time later.

“I was the last person to talk to Carlos,” said Prentiss Police Detective Richard Browning. “In our brief conversation at the Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, Carlos, gave his family a last gift which was a path to justice.”

Desmond Fortenberry, 29, of 580 Zion Hill Church Road, was identified as the shooter early in the case and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Fortenberry was taken into custody by Lamar County authorities and Det. Browning the morning of Nov. 23, 2019, at the 100 block of West Hills Road in Hattiesburg.

The following year, Fortenberry escaped the Jefferson Davis County Jail on July 23, 2020, and was on the run until he was apprehended in Chicago, Illinois on Sept. 17, 2020.

According to Browning, Fortenberry was read out loud the articles of the crime in court Monday by Assistant District Attorney, Christina Holcomb, and acknowledged the articles were true and stated he was guilty.

In the plea agreement Fortenberry was sentenced to 30 years, with 20 years to serve day-for-day. The charge of escape was dismissed per the plea agreement.

With emotions high throughout the courtroom, Carlos Taylor’s sister, Phyliss Armstrong, told Fortenberry that the Taylor family forgave him and although they wanted him to receive a life sentence, they wished him to be changed in his long incarceration. Approximately 20 family members of the Taylor family were present in the courtroom, including Taylor’s daughter.

Browning is relieved this case is solved and the family can move forward. “This type of case effects more than just the victim. It also effects the family and friends who must live without their loved one and suffer great pain that will likely never completely heal. In the end, we made a rock-solid case against Fortenberry. It all started with Carlos Taylor’s dying declaration which lead us to an insurmountable amount of evidence proving Fortenberry was Taylor’s killer.”