1. News

Ex-convict charged in Miss. highway shootings

Published May 19, 2012

TUNICA, Miss. — To hear his neighbors tell it, James Willie was just a regular guy who sometimes played with the neighborhood kids. Police describe him as a cold-blooded killer who stalked his victims on dark stretches of Mississippi's highways and shot two of them dead.

Authorities said Friday that the 28-year-old unemployed ex-convict is responsible for two fatal shootings that prompted fears that a police impersonator was preying on motorists late at night.

The first roadside killing happened May 8, when Thomas Schlender of Nebraska was found dead about 1:30 a.m. in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County. He had been traveling to Florida to pick up his grandson. Three days later, local casino employee Lori Anne Carswell was found dead in her car on Mississippi Highway 713 after working a late shift.

Authorities say the hunt for the highway shooter ended in an apartment when a woman climbed out a window Tuesday and went running for help, later telling authorities that Willie abducted and raped her. A 9mm gun and shell casing found during that investigation linked Willie to the highway shootings, Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp said Friday.

"It's just shocking to me. It just don't add up," said Carolyn Gross, who lived next door to Willie and his girlfriend. "It just didn't seem like he would do something like that. He was out here playing with our kids."


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