TUNICA, Miss. - Mississippi authorities said Friday that robbery appeared to be the motive for a suspect in two roadside slayings that prompted unfounded fears of an impostor police officer pulling over victims.
Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp said James D. Willie, 28, was arrested Tuesday after the investigation of an alleged rape turned up evidence linking him to the killings.
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. Then local casino employee Lori Anne Carswell was found dead in her car on Mississippi Highway 713 about 2:15 a.m. on May 11.
Willie was arrested Tuesday after a woman said he raped her. The sheriff said shell casings and a 9mm Ruger pistol found in that investigation matched shells from the killing sites.
Police had warned drivers that a fake officer might be pulling over victims. But Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said Willie had not been posing as a police officer.
He was being held on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, and rape and was charged with capital murder in Tunica County.
A capital murder charge is expected in Panola County, meaning he could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.