On Friday, frightened Mississippians were treated to two pieces of good news: that two recent highway killings were not committed by a man posing as a police officer, and that the man suspected of the murders had been taken into custody.
Warren Strain, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety told the Associate Press that a 9 mm Ruger handgun belonging to James D. Willie, 28, currently in the Tunica County Jail, was a ballistic match to shell casings found at two crime scenes: the roadside murders of Thomas Schlender on May 8 and Lori Ann Carswell on May 11.
Willie was arrested on Tuesday after police were called to an apartment where a woman accused him of rape. The suspect’s gun was found and processed, and testing on it linked Willie to the murders. Willie is being held on charges of rape, aggravated assault and kidnapping, with capital murder charges certain to follow.
After further investigation, law enforcement believes that Willie did not pose as a cop during the murders. Strain told a Los Angeles Times reporter that the fake-cop theory was just one of several possible scenarios — albeit one that provoked anxiety across Mississippi. “But it was a situation where if we didn’t do anything and he was posing as a police officer, then holy cow, you’ve got a whole different ballgame there,” he said.
The arrest comes as welcome news for James Lucas, who was arrested yesterday in Yazoo County and was being looked into as a potential suspect in the killings.