Henley, 40, and her husband, Brandon Henley, had transformed the place into a makeshift shrine, including an oversize wooden sign that read “I WAS MURDERED” — a visual reminder of the couple’s insistence that Jones had been deliberately killed and their claims that police haven’t taken the investigation seriously.
But those words also soon became a chilling harbinger of Henley’s fate.
She was shot Sunday as she rid the grass of weeds, police told the North Mississippi Herald. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, the Yalobusha County coroner confirmed to The Washington Post.
Henley’s husband told local news that his wife was shot in the back of the head.
It is unclear whether Henley’s and Jones’s cases are connected. But Brandon Henley said he believes the same person killed both women.
“I have my own theory, and the police do too,” he told WREG, adding that police have already interviewed a suspect. “I’d like for them to do their job because this is the second person someone down there has taken from me. My son doesn’t have a mother.”
Henley was a teacher until winning the 2015 election to represent DeSoto County in the state House; she lost to a Democrat by 14 votes in the 2019 election.
Jones died after midnight on Dec. 26 in her bedroom in the trailer, which was owned by her father. The home was set ablaze around 1:30 a.m. The county coroner told the Mississippi Free Press that there were no signs of gunshot wounds and that the investigation is ongoing. Police have not ruled out homicide as the cause of death.
But in recent months, Henley and her husband had repeatedly criticized the sheriff’s office over its work on Jones’s case.
“We will find out who did this, with or without help from Yalobusha County,” Henley wrote in a comment on a Facebook post from April 6. “She’s not the first to die like this down there, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure she’s the last. Her death will not be [in] vain.”
Brandon Henley posted several pictures of the burned trailer, pointing out that the fire seemed to occur mainly in Jones’s bedroom. In an April 6 post, he said that investigators had ruled the fire as arson and found that there was no smoke in Jones’s lungs, signaling that she had died before the fire. Neither the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Office nor local fire officials immediately returned messages from The Post early on Tuesday to respond to his claims.
Ashley Henley also wrote about a tense confrontation with sheriff’s deputies around that same time. She was bringing flowers to the memorial outside the trailer, she said, when officers stopped her and “attempted to intimidate” her, she wrote, and threatened to arrest her for not handing over her “lawfully holstered, concealed firearm without probable cause.”
“We will not be intimidated,” she wrote. “We are not going away. We will not back down. We will not be silent any longer. My sister-in-law deserves #JUSTICE.”
She then added in a comment on the post: “I know the law, and I also know how quick people disappear down here. I’m not going down like that.”
On Sunday, Henley left her home in Southaven, Miss., around 10 a.m. to go to Jones’s trailer in rural Water Valley, Miss., her husband told WREG.
Brandon Henley said he grew concerned after not hearing from his wife for hours and called a neighbor near the Water Valley property around 8 p.m. to check whether she was still there. The neighbor spotted Henley’s truck but couldn’t find her.
Police arrived at the scene around 10 p.m. and soon after found Henley’s body. Authorities believe she was killed while tending to the lawn, according to the Herald, which first reported on the case.
State Rep. Dan Eubanks (R), Henley’s close colleague during her time in the state House, told WLBT that she had grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks and feared that Jones’s case would go cold. She had taken it upon herself to look further into her death.
“I really believe that what happened was, she continued to pursue certain leads and she ruffled some feathers and somebody wanted to put an end to that search,” Eubanks said. “It’s obvious that it was an execution-style murder. Somebody wanted her dead. They didn’t rob her, they didn’t take any of her stuff. … They killed her and just moved on.”