Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Sid Salter: 31 Years After Murders, No Justice for MSU Students Steckler & Miller

 At least once a week, I walk by on-campus memorial stones commemorating the senseless murders of Mississippi State University students Jon Stephen Steckler and Pamela Tiffany Miller on the night of Dec. 11, 1992. 

Jon’s parents and both sets of grandparents have passed away as has Tiffany’s mother and her parents. Left to mourn them are their siblings and a few other relatives, but their names and memories endure on the campus they loved. 

The pair had been on a date. According to trial transcripts, the young couple was last seen alive in the early morning hours of Dec. 11, 1992, outside of Steckler’s fraternity house near the campus. The couple left the house around 1 a.m. in Miller’s car. At 2:15 a.m., Steckler’s body was discovered in the right-hand lane of a county road. 

Near his body, authorities found a gold token, three shell casings, and a projectile. Steckler’s injuries were consistent with having been run over by a car at a low speed. Miller’s body was discovered in the nearby woods and investigators believe she had been sexually assaulted. She had been shot twice in the face. 

Miller’s car was discovered in front of an apartment building nearby. On the pavement near the driver’s side door, coins were found as well as a ring identified as belonging to Miller, all about 100 yards away from Miller’s residence. In 1994, Willie Jerome “Fly” Manning of Starkville was convicted of the capital murders of Steckler and Miller in a jury trial after one hour of deliberations. 

Manning was sentenced to death for the murders. The most damning evidence against Manning was his alleged attempts to sell certain items identified as belonging to his victims. 

In the period between the time Steckler and Miller were killed and when Manning went to trial and was convicted for their murders, he was accused of a second grisly murder. Less than six weeks after the students were killed – on the evening of Jan. 18, 1993 – elderly mother and daughter Emmoline Jimmerson and Alberta Jordan were found dead in their Brooksville Gardens apartment. Police found no signs of forced entry, and the apartment was not ransacked. Both women had been beaten about the head, and their throats were slashed. 



Manning was convicted and sentenced to death in a separate trial for the 1993 murders of Jimmerson and Jordan. But those charges were dropped in 2015 after a jailhouse informant recanted his testimony and the court discovered that exculpatory evidence had been withheld by investigators. Manning received an exoneration on those charges. 

In 2013, Manning came perilously close to meeting the executioner as punishment for the murders of Steckler and Miller. Manning got an 11th-hour stay of execution on an 8–1 decision by the state's highest court after issues were raised by Manning's attorneys challenging the testimony of FBI agents regarding ballistics and hair analysis used to convict him in the Steckler-Miller murders. 

In November, Republican Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a motion to dismiss a second-post conviction motion and set a date for Manning’s execution. On Dec. 1, the Mississippi Supreme Court temporarily suspended Fitch’s motion, ruling that the court must rule on Manning’s latest motion regarding a challenge to his conviction before an execution date can be set. 

Former Starkville police chief David Lindley told The Columbus Dispatch newspaper in 2013 his recollections of Manning as someone in and out of trouble with the law since childhood. Manning’s criminal record goes back to the mid–1970s when he broke into a store in an attempt to steal a motorcycle. “Fly” was six years old at the time. 

Like a bad penny, “Fly” Manning continues to turn up in the appellate courts on the Steckler-Miller murders. But in 2013, Democratic Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood called the evidence of Manning's guilt “overwhelming.” So has GOP AG Fitch. 

“Even if technologies were available to determine the source of the hair, to indicate someone other than Manning, it would not negate other evidence that shows his guilt. He is a violent person who committed these heinous murders,” Hood said. 


Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 



Anonymous said...

but but but-he must be given the benefit of all doubt.

Anonymous said...

I externed at the Attorney General's office in the capital appellate division during law school. Worked on the appeal of a death row inmate named Charles Crawford. He had brutally raped and murdered a twenty-year old girl named Kristi Ray in north Mississippi. The evidence (DNA and otherwise) against him was overwhelming. That murder happened in 1993. I remember the lady I worked under telling me that I will have been a practicing attorney for at least 10 years before he is executed. I am 26 years in, and he is still sitting on death row. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

I was a sophomore at State when this happened and was in that parking lot an hour or so before the encounter leading to these deaths. It was shocking and horrific at the time, and the memories are still. I can't believe the anguish these families must have lived with for years. I pray they've reconciled the matters in their hearts and are at peace. I can't support the efforts to execute another person, though.

Anonymous said...

Strangely, as staunchly conservative as I am, I can actually get on board with 10:31's position on not getting behind the death penalty......ONLY PROVIDED that if the person is found guilty and given a life sentence that that person never, ever, for any reason, under NO circumstances, ever, ever, steps foot out of that prison, regardless of being super duper sorry or sick or REALLY, REALLY sorry or the bleeding hearts REALLY think he/she shouldn't be in prison. If life in prison, without the possibility of parole ACTUALLY meant just that, I could go along with it. Granted, it'd be a lot more expensive than the death penalty (well, except for the fact that death row inmates often spend 30+ years waiting on execution), but I think life in prison is lot more harsh penalty that just ending up earlier where they're ultimately going to end up anyway.

There's more controversy surrounding the death penalty than there needs to be, so just lock them up, and totally forget they exist. The deterrent value - at least for that individual - is the same either way.

Derek said...

It's time to light this dude up!!!! The families and people paid to much for this dudes crimes the day he was convicted. Time to put in an express lane like Ron White says!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where I stand on Death Penalty, and I am pretty conservative on most issues.
But there should be SOME end to the endless appeals, and these prisoners should be forced to work, and work hard. Manual labor and bare minimum housing until they are old.
And they should produce something that can be used to offset the cost the cost of housing them.

Its insane that we lodge, feed and provide medical to these monsters while they lift weights and play cards.

Anonymous said...

I knew both victims, so this case really tears at my heart, but I'm not sure they even got the right guy. The same police and prosecutor that prosecuted him on another case - where he was fully exonerated - led this case and there are numerous issues. The theory was that some items from a robbery were tied to this guy and therefore he must have been interrupted in that robbery to then carry out these murders. Those items and their tie to him were pretty suspect - with several people paid or promised things to testify.

There was DNA found through the rape kit and it didn't match anyone known (or this guy) and I'm always skeptical when the state fights further testing.

Here is an outline of the case (that seems to come from a far-left perspective):

Anonymous said...

This would be shocking anywhere in the 1990s.
It’s a weekly occurrence in Jackson in 2023.

Anonymous said...

Look at what we know so far about the goon squad and how until the feds showed up 'Nobody saw anything. Nobody heard anything. Nobody knew anything. Nobody reported anything.'

Then repeat the following three times: "There is no reasonable doubt."

!00% support natural life sentences served to completion though.

Anonymous said...

December 13, 2023 at 12:04 PM, how about former Attorney General Jim Hood, would you believe him? If you had read the article, you would have read what he said.

Anonymous said...

December 13, 2023 at 1:43 PM, if you had read the article, you would know the Feds were involved in this case.

Anonymous said...

3:14PM, It looks like the Feds were involved, but then threw a wrench in everything by disowning their own initial findings.

Anonymous said...

December 13, 2023 at 5:14 PM, say what? Where did you see that in the article?

Anonymous said...

@7:48, I think the first reference to the FBI recanting all of their former testimony was in a Clarion Ledger article, but here is the source document:


Anonymous said...

It’s a tough call, the death penalty. As a former officer of the court, I can say a cop is as likely to lie under oath as a criminal defendant. I say that as one having sat on two juries and heard, more or less, “‘Ey cain’t lie. ‘Ey the po-lice.”

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