PANOLA COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Matthew Whitten Darby is the white teenager accused of intentionally running over and killing a 61 year old black man walking down a Panola County, Mississippi street.
From the beginning, the case has raised questions about whether John Butts was targeted because he was black. After weeks of investigating, Darby has just been indicted but he is not being charged with a hate crime.
"We talked to numerous witnesses and there was just no evidence whatsoever that this was in fact a hate crime, though it was investigated as one," says district attorney John Champion.
Lawyers on both sides agree that race is not a part of this case.
"There's absolutely no evidence at all that would support any allegations it was racially motivated," says Darby's defense lawyer, Tony Farese.
Darby is charged with purposefully committing the murder, that's where lawyers disagree.
John Butts was found dead on Highway 310 on July 22nd. Investigators say the Sunday school teacher was hit and dragged 70 feet while exercising.
Panola County deputies charged Darby with murder shortly after finding Butts. They say Darby was driving with two teenage friends when he decided to intentionally hit Butts.
"It's a deliberate design charge," Champion tells abc24.com.
"We do not believe it's murder and we will go forward and work the case," says Farese. "He (Darby) has no criminal history. He comes from a great family. This is a tragedy. We believe this was a tragic accident and it was not an intentional act."
But that's little comfort to Butts' family, left without him and still questioning why.
"The car came over purposefully to hit him," says Patricia Jones, Butts' sister. "He wasn't by anyone. They came off the road. That's what gets me."
Darby faces life in prison. He's also charged in a separate case of church vandalism and burglary.
Darby remains in jail on a $300,000 bond. He's due back in court September 5th.