PANOLA COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - He's already charged with one murder, and in a few weeks it could be two. Accused Mississippi highway shooter James Willie's case will be presented to a grand jury in Panola County on June 27th.
Investigators say Willie shot and killed two people on Mississippi highways last month. His crimes frightened drivers across the northern part of the state.
Willie is being held in Tunica County jail. If he's indicted in Panola County, the next step will be deciding whether to seek the death penalty.
"If you are seeking the death penalty on someone the jury's always going to look at that case a heck of a lot closer," says District Attorney John Champion. "You really want to check and double check and recheck."
Champion says he's got work to do before deciding how to proceed against Willie. Four things come into play when he decides whether to seek the death penalty.
"Normally what I do when considering the death penalty is look at my evidence."
Thomas Schlender was gunned down May 8 on I-55 in Panola County. Three days later, Lori Carswell was murdered in Tunica.
Champion can't comment specifically on evidence in Willie's case, but investigators arrested the 28-year-old, charging he had fired a gun used in both highway killings.
What's next? "Look at the history of the defendant, look at the viciousness of the crime," Champion tells abc24.com. He says Willie served time for burglary and threatened to kill his parole officer.
Investigators say Carswell was shot in the head. Schlender's car was riddled with bullets. The elderly man's family wants the death penalty, and that's the final determining factor for Champion.
"Consult with the family," he says. "They've indicated to me at this point they want the death penalty, but all we've had right now are just preliminary conversations."
Champion says he can decide how Willie is charged up to a few weeks before trial. He will have two different trials, one in Panola County and one in Tunica. That means two different sentences as well.