Autopsy leaves questions in case of body found near I-20|[6/5/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 5, 2006

Authorities were working to confirm the identity of a man they believe was slain Friday or Saturday at a rest stop off Interstate 20 east of Vicksburg, Warren County Coroner John Thomason said today.

&#8220We don’t have a positive ID, but we have a good idea of who we think it is,” Thomason said.

An autopsy was performed at Mississippi Mortuary Services in Pearl Sunday, but the results will not be released until other information is available, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

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&#8220DNA tests will be run the early part of this week and, until those are complete, we do not want to release the name of the victim,” Pace said. &#8220But an autopsy was performed that gave us some insight as to what led to his death.”

&#8220We can say with certainty that his life was not taken by his own hand,” Thomason said. &#8220I believe he was killed there, and that he’d been there less than 12 hours, from what we can determine. If I pinpoint the time, that would compromise the investigation. We have contacted the family of who we think it is.”

At about 9:23 Saturday morning, a truck driver who had stopped at the rest area just outside the city limits on the eastbound side of the interstate saw the body and called 911.

Officials with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department spent much of the weekend interviewing witnesses and combing the area for evidence, including searching a vehicle investigators believe belonged to the victim.

&#8220We completed the search yesterday evening,” Pace said. The late-model Pontiac Grand Prix &#8220has been transported to MHP headquarters in Jackson. We feel certain that the Pontiac that was in the rest area is that of the victim.”

Both agencies returned to the rest stop this morning, Pace said, to &#8220make sure we have not overlooked anything.”

&#8220I’ll have 10 or 12 of my deputies and six or eight MBI guys will be out there. We are going to walk through the whole area again. We are not looking for any specific object. We are not commenting on too many specifics right now.”

The homicide was the county’s third this year. In April, Cetric Ladelle Griffin, 24, was found shot to death at the residence of David Wayne Welch, 40, 310 Massey Road. Welch was charged in the killing.

In January, family members found the body of 72-year-old Elizabeth Williams in her home off U.S. 80, the victim of a blow to the head. No charges have been filed in that case.