A New Orleans man on Friday pled guilty to first-degree murder for the 2017 shooting death of a 68-year-old Waveland man.
"40-year-old Christopher Neeley May, of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty and was sentenced today in Gulfport on one count of First Degree Murder," District Attorney Joel Smith said in a press release Friday. "Judge Lisa Dodson sentenced May to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections."
Investigators say that shortly before sunrise on June 7, 2017, Clifford Burke was headed to launch his fishing boat at the Pleasure Street marina, but stopped his pickup truck when he saw blue lights flashing from behind. That's when Christopher May conducted a "fake" traffic stop in order to rob Burke, authorities said.
May allegedly impersonated a police officer while driving an older-model white Ford Crown-Victoria set-up with lights in the grill to pull Burke over near Pincher's Seafood, Hancock Sheriff's Chief Investigator Glenn Grannan said at the time.
Grannan said May approached the victim, shot him twice and stole his wallet before fleeing the scene.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they "found the victim, Clifford Burke, in his pickup truck wounded due to gunshots to his neck and abdomen," Smith said. "Mr. Burke also had blunt trauma injuries to his head. As AMR and deputies provided aid to the victim, he provided a description of the defendant and his car, a white Ford Crown Victoria with a strobe light in the grille similar to a police car. The victim also reported to deputies that he had been stopped by the defendant on the roadway prior to the shooting. Mr. Burke died later that day at Memorial Hospital."
Police nabbed May at a casino in the area shortly after initiating a search for the car. They retrieved a handgun from May's car that they said was used to murder Burke. Police believe the total amount of money acquired in the robbery was about $40.
"As they continued their investigation, the gun used by the defendant was located hidden in the Crown Victoria,” ADA Chris Daniel, who prosecuted the case, said in the press release.
"During today’s plea, the defendant admitted to shooting the victim and said that he had been removed from the casino due to intoxication, and he stopped Mr. Burke because he wanted to go fishing," Smith said. "The defendant stated an argument occurred between them on the roadside leading him to shoot Mr. Burke.
"After the defendant pled guilty, the victim’s brother, James Burke spoke to the court on behalf of the family. He stated that in the two years surrounding this event, his mother lost a husband and two sons. The brother stated, '[N]o mother deserves to witness three deaths in such a short time, and especially the murder of one of her children. Her life will never be the same again, and she suffers daily because of what you did. Her heart is forever broken. You have been sentenced by this judge today, and you will receive the ultimate sentence by God Almighty someday.'”
"I want to let the family know I am sorry," May said before sentencing, according to the press release. "I was smoking crack and drinking. I am sorry.”
Prior to sentencing May to life in prison, Smith said, Judge Dodson commented on the correlation between drugs and crimes and stated, “You made a really bad decision, and it has affected his family and yours. It was a completely senseless act. You cannot undo it.”
“This was an inexcusable crime driven by cocaine and alcohol," Smith said. "This is an important day for Mr. Burke’s family as they seek justice for the loss of a beloved son and father. We appreciate the dedication and commitment of the deputies who made the arrest and gathered the evidence which led to May’s conviction.”