(TUNICA, Miss.) — Authorities in Mississippi have arrested a suspect in connection with two fatal shootings that occurred last week along the state’s northern highways.
James D. Willie, 28, was originally arrested Tuesday morning in Tunica, Mississippi, on a rape charge. At the time, a Ruger 9mm, semi-automatic handgun was found in his possession, according to officials. That weapon later proved to be the same one used in the two murders.
“It was determined after a testing by state crime lab scientists, the weapon matched the weapon used in two murders in northwest Mississippi last week,” the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said in a statement Friday.
Willie has been charged with two counts of capital murder in the shootings. State Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said that he was not posing as a police officer in the shootings, as authorities previously suspected.
As of late Thursday, authorities were questioning another man, James Lucas, who was being held in Humphreys County, Miss. Lucas was merely “under investigation,” officials say, and was being questioned regarding two fatal Wednesday night incidents in central Mississippi. He was not charged with a crime, a Humphreys County sheriff’s official said.
Police could not say Thursday night whether these two recent incidents were related to the fatal shootings from last week.
On May 8, at about 1:30 a.m., Tom Schlender, 74, from Nebraska, was found dead in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County. Three days later, Lori Carswell, 48, from Mississippi, was found near her car on Mississippi Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County at about 2:15 a.m.
The shootings prompted authorities to issue a warning to drivers after it was believed that the suspect was posing as a police officer.
“We urge everyone to be cautious while driving, especially at night,” the Tate County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page. “If someone attempts to pull you over with flashing lights and you feel unsure of stopping, DON’T PULL OVER. Use your cell phone and dial 911 and if it’s a real officer then the dispatcher will confirm it for you and if it’s not a real officer they will send help to you.”
According to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, a motive for the two shootings is still under investigation.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire