TUNICA COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Mississippi investigators locked up the man who they say shot and killed two drivers on interstate roadsides last week. 28-year-old James Willie was arrested in Tunica on Tuesday, May 15. Evidence reports finalized early Friday morning indicate he's the highway shooter.
Cops call Willie a career criminal. They aren't sure if he's also a police impersonator like authorities feared, but say his record speaks for itself. He's a convicted felon initially arrested this week, not for the shootings, but for rape.
Willie faces capital murder charges for both highway shootings. This week he's also been charged with kidnapping, robbery and rape. Cops say he was acting to support a growing drug habit.
"I know everyone's been on pins and needles," says District Attorney John Champion. All were wondering if the highway shooter would strike again.
"Now we have closure to it, I'm going to tell you when we started we had nothing," Champion says. "This arrest is from fantastic police work."
Hundreds of law enforcement officers were looking for the shooter. Cops say ballistics technicians matched the gun used in both killings.
Tunica police say Willie fired that gun Tuesday when he raped a woman.
"We went to the area where the rape happened and cross examined the evidence there," says Tunica Sheriff KC Hamp. He believes Willie killed for drugs, possibly robbing both highway victims to support his habit.
He says Willie hasn't confessed to the crimes, but says, "He cooperated to a certain extent. There are certain questions he'll back off of, but we've got enough. We have more than enough to get him convicted."
Those convictions won't be his first.
Authorities say Willie has committed crimes across northern Mississippi, including several misdemeanors in Tate County and a 2002 burglary conviction in Panola County.
"He was convicted and got a two year sentence," Champion says. "Once released he violated his probation by threatening to kill his probation officer."
Even so, investigators say he doesn't have a violent past. There was nothing to indicate the danger that had people fearful of driving on state highways.
"Based on our investigation he'll do anything to take care of his dependency," Hamp says.
The highway shootings took place in Tunica and Panola counties. Willie will have his first court appearance in Tunica on Monday, May 21. Sometime later he'll be transferred to Panola County to be charged there.