Woman facing murder charge after police say they found her son’s body hidden behind a false wall

Gulfport Police Department

Jerri Roby, who also goes by the last name Israel, is facing one count of first-degree murder, Mississippi authorities say.


A 66-year-old Mississippi woman is facing a murder charge after police say they found the body of her son in a wooden box hidden behind a false wall in her home.

Jerri Roby, who also goes by the last name Israel, is facing one count of first-degree murder after authorities found the body of her 42-year-old son, John Allen Gaither, behind the wall in her Gulfport home, Gulfport Police Department spokesman Jason DuCré told CNN Sunday.

Authorities started investigating on December 22, 2023, after one of Gaither’s out-of-state relatives called to report him missing, DuCré said, noting the last known contact anyone had made with Gaither was on December 10.

Police started investigating, conducted several follow-ups and “began noticing discrepancies in statements provided by Isreal [sic]. Throughout the course of the investigation, Isreal [sic] became increasingly uncooperative and changed her statements multiple times,” a news release from Gulfport police reads.

Roby had previously been convicted of murder in Florida around 1995, and “made several attempts to dump the deceased subject at different locations throughout Florida,” authorities said in the news release. Police then say they obtained a search warrant.

Detectives and crime scene technicians conducted the search of her home on January 18, the release said. As detectives walked into her home, Roby ingested a handful of unspecified pills, which prompted the need for her to be transported to a hospital for medical treatment, DuCré said.

“During the search of the residence, a wooden box containing a deceased subject, later identified as John Allen Gaither, was located behind a false wall,” the news release states.

DuCré said Roby attempted to cover up the crime by writing notes to family members, where she posed as her son, saying he was OK. Multiple homemade wooden boxes were found at the house and in the garage, DuCré said.

Roby was arrested on Saturday after she was released from the hospital and is now being held in Harrison County Detention Center without bond, according to DuCré, who said due to her past criminal record, she has been deemed a flight risk.

Information about an upcoming court appearance and Roby’s legal representation was not available Sunday.

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