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Highway murders: Suspect held in Mississippi 'fake cop' case

This image provided by the Tunica Mississippi Sheriff's department shows James Willie, who authorities arrested early Friday, May 18.

JACKSON, Miss. -- Authorities in Mississippi said early Friday they have arrested a suspect in two fatal highway shootings that happened late at night along desolate stretches.

James D. Willie, 28, of Sardis, Miss., was being held on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and rape and would be formally charged with two counts of capital murder, Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain told The Associated Press.

Willie was being held at the Tunica County jail in north Mississippi.


"Hundreds of man hours have been devoted to tracking down and arresting this individual," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement.

Willie had not been posing as a police officer in the shootings as authorities previously thought, Strain said.

Willie was arrested Tuesday morning when authorities responded to a disturbance at an apartment. Tunica police found Willie with a woman who claimed he had raped her, a news release said. When Willie was arrested, authorities found a 9mm Ruger in his possession. Testing later found that it was the same gun used in the two highway shootings, authorities said.

Thomas Schlender, 74, of Raymond, Neb., was found dead in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County on May 8 around 1:30 a.m. Lori Anne Carswell, 48, of Hernando, Miss. was found dead near her car on Mississippi Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County about 2:15 a.m. on May 11.

Mississippi police discuss two random shootings which they believe are linked together, possibly to someone impersonating a police officer.

Mississippi law enforcement agencies had warned motorists someone may be posing as an officer because the shooting victims had no obvious reason to be stopped on the interstate where they were found.

"Our citizens have been terrorized by these murders and we worked tirelessly to resolve them," Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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