Sat. May 25th, 2024

A Mississippi school teacher was sentenced to life without parole on October 13, 2009 for shooting and stabbing to death her lover’s pregnant fiancée.

Carla Ann Hughes is a former middle school teacher from Greenville, Mississippi who was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the November 29, 2006 murder of her lover’s pregnant fiancée Avis Banks and Banks’ unborn child.

Mississippi is among the states that consider murdering a pregnant woman to be taking two lives.

Avis Banks was found lying in a pool of blood in the garage of the Ridgeland home she shared with Keyon Pittman, the father of her unborn child. She was five months pregnant.

She had been shot four times in the leg, chest and head, and then stabbed multiple times in the face and neck as she lay dying, according to medical testimony.

Prosecutors alleged that Hughes killed Banks so she could have Pittman to herself. Pittman was a colleague at Chastain Middle School in Jackson.

“She took Avis Banks’ life and the life of her unborn child because she wanted that life,” the prosecutor said.

The jury deliberated for about an hour to decide on the sentence after hearing emotional testimony from seven defense witnesses, including her parents.

“Carla has been a kind, loving person all her life,” said Carl Hughes, who adopted his daughter when she was 6 weeks old.

“I’m not asking you, I’m pleading with you, to spare my daughter’s life,” said Hughes, who is also a teacher.

He said that the person portrayed by prosecutors as a cold-blooded killer was completely different from the accomplished honors student, equestrian and beauty pageant contestant that he knew and loved.

Hughes’ pastor and friends also took the stand to describe her work mentoring youths, volunteering at church and at the school where she met the victim’s husband.

Suspicion initially fell on Pittman, who admitted to having an affair with Hughes, a language arts teacher. A key prosecution witness, Pittman told the jury he began seeing Hughes one month after finding out his girlfriend was pregnant. He testified that the two met frequently in Hughes’ home and even went out of town together, but he insisted the relationship was based solely on sex.

Defense lawyers maintained her innocence and attempted to cast blame on Pittman, portraying him as a womanizer seeking to avoid the burden of fatherhood.

Prosecutors alleged the murder weapons connected Hughes to the crime. The defendant’s cousin testified that he lent her a knife and a loaded .38 caliber revolver the weekend before Banks’ death. Ballistics tests matched the bullets from Banks’ body to the gun, which Hughes returned unloaded to her cousin after her first interview with police.

None of Banks’ relatives testified at the sentencing. Instead, the jury heard from a forensic pathologist, who described the nature of Banks’ injuries.

Madison County Deputy District Attorney John Emfinger urged the jury to look past Hughes’ prior achievements and focus on the crime in rendering its sentence.

“In my mind, this overshadows everything else she’s done in life. She took the lives of two people in that garage,” he said in his closing argument Wednesday.

“When that door opened, Avis Banks was not met by a beauty pageant winner, she was not met by a member of the mayor’s youth council, she was not met by a peacemaker. … She was met by a stone-cold killer,” he said.

The judge read the jury’s decision as follows: “As to count one, the verdict for count one, the sentence is … we the jury find that the defendant should be sentenced to life in prison without parole. As to count two, we the jury find the defendant should be sentenced to life in prison without parole.”

Hughes is serving two consecutive sentences of life without parole at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility near Pearl, Mississippi.

On August 30, 2010, a Madison County judge denied Carla Hughes’ request for a new trial.

On June 21, 2012, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Madison County Circuit Court. Six issues were raised on appeal, all of which were found to be without error.

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born |