Body found believed to be missing Clinton woman

Published 12:01 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

EDWARDS — A body with clothes identical to those of a missing Clinton woman was found Friday night near Edwards, a Clinton official said.

Ethel Winstead Simpson, 81, has been missing since Monday, when she and a convicted sex offender from Alabama were seen, on security cameras, leaving Riverwalk Casino in Vicksburg.

“We have a strong belief it could be her,” said Clinton Police Chief Don Byington Friday night near a hog farm in Hinds County off Mississippi 22, where the body was found. “The clothing is the exact description, but we can’t confirm it is her.”

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Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart oversaw the removal of the body around 9 p.m. and said an autopsy would confirm the cause of death.

“We have a badly decomposed body of a female,” Grisham-Stewart said after her initial examination of the remains, which were found about 50 yards east of Mississippi 22 about a mile north of Interstate 20. “There does appear to be some trauma to the head and possibly to the chest.”

She said it was difficult to confirm race or age, but believes the woman was white.

The remains were sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab for an autopsy to be performed this weekend.

While the cause of death will be known right away, the coroner said identification would probably require comparisons with dental records or DNA. She would not estimate how long that would take.

Meanwhile, the convicted sex offender whom Simpson had been seen with was arrested in eastern Alabama on Friday.

James Cobb Hutto III, 39, of Jasper, Ala., was arrested in Lee County, Ala., near Auburn, said Byington. After the arrest, Clinton investigators were sent to Alabama and were interrogating Hutto Friday night, he said.

Hutto was driving Simpson’s 2002 silver Mercedes sedan when he was arrested about 11:30 a.m. Friday, Byington said. The chief declined to release other details.

Investigators believe Hutto befriended Simpson on the walking track at the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton. A few hours later, the two were seen driving away in Simpson’s car.

Byington said Simpson took Hutto to Taco Bell then dropped him off at his hotel. He said the two later headed to Vicksburg and were seen leaving the casino about 11:40 p.m. Monday.

Edwards hog farmer Charlie Lloyd Richardson, who lives on Mississippi 22 and maintains the farm on property he owns directly across the highway, said he noticed “an unusual smell” while walking there around 4 Friday afternoon.

“It was mighty bad,” he said.

Richardson notified Edwards police, who went with him to the site and made the discovery.

Grisham-Stewart said the body, fully clothed in a red shirt and brown pants, was on the ground and partially covered by a large plastic container. The body had probably been there three to four days, the coroner said.

Edwards police notified the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department at 6:22 p.m., said Lt. Jeffery Scott, spokesman for the department, which handled Friday night’s crime scene investigation.

Hutto is wanted in Alabama because he has failed to register as a sex offender, said Richard Griffin, supervisory deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Jackson. He is also wanted for questioning in the death of a relative in Alabama.

Hutto’s arrest Friday was on charges that he tried to rob and kill an Alabama man, Mark Ambers Cox, 59, of Opelika.

Deputies received a call Friday morning and found Cox stabbed multiple times in his neck and suffering from cuts and bruises on his face and head, Lee County Sheriff’s Capt. Van Jackson said.

Cox told police that he had met a man who was interested in buying property from him, and the man attacked him after Cox brought him to a wooded area near his home.

Hutto was convicted in 2002 of sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl and sentenced to two concurrent 10-year terms, Alabama Department of Corrections officials said. He served 3 1/2 years before his release in 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.