Mother arrested for murder after her son’s body found behind fake wall

Mugshot of Jerri Lynn Isreal, who was arrested for murder on Jan. 20, 2024, after police found her son's dead body in a box behind a false wall in her home. Gulfport Police Department/Facebook

A 66-year-old woman residing in southern Mississippi has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after her 42-year-old son was found dead in a wooden box behind a false wall in his mother’s home.

Police in Gulfport, Miss. learned throughout the course of their investigation that Jerri Lynn Roby, who also goes by the last name Isreal, was previously “convicted of murder in Florida around 1995,” the Gulfport Police Department wrote in a statement.

The investigation began in late Dec 2023 after out-of-state relatives of the family called 911 to report Isreal’s son, John Allen Gaither, missing, Gulfport police spokesperson Jason DuCré told CNN. The family members said the last known contact Gaither had with anyone was on Dec. 10.

On Dec. 22, officers arrived at Isreal’s home for the first time in search of Gaither. Throughout the week, detectives conducted “several follow-ups and began noticing discrepancies in statements provided by Isreal,” police state.

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“Throughout the course of the investigation, Isreal became increasingly uncooperative and changed her statements multiple times,” police added.

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It was then that police learned of Isreal’s prior murder conviction, including details about how she “made several attempts to dump the deceased subject at different locations throughout Florida.”

With this information, police obtained a search warrant. Last week, on Jan 18, detectives and crime scene technicians entered the residence to conduct the search.

“At this time, Isreal was subsequently transported to a local area hospital for medical treatment,” police wrote in the statement.

Police spokesperson DuCré told CNN that the reason for Isreal’s hospitalization was because she ingested a handful of unspecified pills when authorities entered the residence.

During the search of Isreal’s home, police located a wooden box behind a false wall. The box contained a dead man who was later identified as Gaither.

DuCré added that Isreal attempted to conceal her crime by writing fake notes to family members posing as her son. During the search of the home and garage, police also turned up multiple homemade wooden boxes.

Isreal was arrested on Saturday after she was released from the hospital. She is currently being held in the Harrison County Detention Center without bond.

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