Suicide or murder? Macon jurors to decide preacher’s fate in death of longtime lover

On a June night two years ago at her longtime lover’s house, Kendra Jackson died of a gunshot wound to the head.

She and her lover, a preacher and Air Force veteran, had been engaged. About midnight, according to his version of events, they were in bed watching the NBA playoffs.

Months earlier, Jackson had learned that the preacher, a senior master sergeant in the Air National Guard, was also engaged to another woman.

Jackson, 46, the single mother of three children, had supposedly tried to salvage her relationship with the preacher, a Macon man named William Claude “Bill” Pounds III.

Pounds, then 47, lived in a townhouse on Bel Meade Place, a dead-end off Stinsonville Road on the city’s north side near Captain Kell Drive between Pierce Avenue and Forest Hill Road.

Prosecutors contend that in the wee hours of June 12, 2015, or sometime earlier that night, Pounds shot Jackson in the head with a handgun, killing her. Prosecutors believe he then fabricated a story that Jackson, despondent over their relationship, had fired the gun and taken her own life.

“So what did happen in that bedroom?” Assistant Bibb County District Attorney Jason Martin asked jurors in his opening statement at Pounds’ murder trial, which began Thursday. “There’s a lot of things that don’t add up.”

Among them, prosecutors noted, are inconsistencies in what Pounds is said to have told the police and firefighters.

A Bibb sheriff’s deputy, the first on the scene that night, took the stand Thursday and testified that Pounds told him of trying to take the gun away from Jackson, that Pounds said he had been in the bedroom when Jackson pulled the trigger.

A firefighter, however, testified that Pounds told him that he was downstairs in the townhouse when he heard gunfire and that Jackson had shot herself in an upstairs bedroom.

The case was considered a suicide until investigators delved further. Pounds, a pastor at King’s Chapel Memorial CME Church in Perry, was arrested two months later, in August 2015.

Pounds, now 49 and charged with malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, could face life in prison if convicted.

One of Pounds’ lawyers, Franklin J. Hogue, told jurors in his opening remarks that Jackson — known to friends and loved ones as “Ken” — died in “a tragic suicide.”

Hogue spoke of the couple’s decade-and-a-half-long relationship.

“For 15 years she wanted him, she waited for him and she wept because of him,” Hogue said.

She wanted children with Pounds, Hogue said. Pounds did not, but he led her on for years.

“We concede that,” Hogue said, telling of another relationship that Pounds — unbeknownst to Jackson until the months before Jackson’s death — had carried on for years with another woman from Atlanta.

“He was lying to (Jackson),” Hogue said. “That’s bad. That’s reprehensible.”

Pounds’ love life was a “juggling act,” Hogue added, and it began “crashing down on him.”

Both women learned of one another’s intimate ties to Pounds. Jackson, Hogue went on, grew “distraught, … distressed, hurt.”

But even in the months after finding out about the other woman, Hogue said, Jackson kept seeing Pounds, apparently in hopes of rekindling their romance.

Then in the middle of the night, early on June 12, 2015, while Pounds and Jackson were lying in bed watching basketball, Hogue said Pounds decided, “I need to break this off.”

According to Hogue, Pounds told Jackson something akin to, “We need to stop seeing each other.”

“In her distress,” Hogue told jurors Thursday, Jackson climbed out of bed, got dressed and made her way toward Pounds, who was still in bed.

“He thinks she’s coming to lean down to kiss him goodbye,” Hogue said.

But instead, the defense attorney said, Jackson picked up the Springfield Armory .40-caliber pistol on Pounds’ dresser and walked to the end of the bed.

“He thinks she’s gonna shoot him,” Hogue said, adding that Pounds balled himself up as Jackson said something to the effect, “One of us is leaving this earth.”

In the courtroom gallery where a couple dozen of Jackson’s relatives sat, a woman shook her head in disagreement.

Hogue continued.

He said Pounds tried to calm Jackson and sprang to wrest the gun away, but it was too late.

Jackson shot herself, Hogue said. “This was a tragic suicide that happened before (Pounds’) eyes.”

Prosecutors hinted Thursday that perhaps Pounds hadn’t immediately dialed 911 after Jackson was fatally shot. A firefighter testified that her body felt cold to the touch.

Pounds, a Central High School graduate, dialed 911 about a quarter past midnight.

“My girlfriend is here. … She shot herself in the head,” Pounds told an emergency dispatcher in an apparently frantic call, a recording of which was played in court. “I need a ambulance. I need somebody here, please.”

Pounds can be heard saying, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. … She’s not moving. … Kendra, Kendra. … She’s not moving. ... She’s on her stomach. I was trying to take the gun away from her.”

Pounds mentions that he is in the military, a CPR instructor.

He counts aloud as if doing chest compressions — at times sobbing, wailing.

Six more times he cries out about the gun, repeating: “I was trying to take it from her!”

And then: “Dammit, I was trying to take it from her. Dammit, Kendra, why you wanna do this to me!”

Testimony resumes Friday.