SENATOBIA, MS (abc24.com) - A town is divided by race and finger pointing after a teen is accused of running over and killing a black man who was walking along a highway. The deadly hit and run happened about 2 weeks ago. Matthew Whitten Darby, 17, is charged with the murder of 61-year-old John Lee Butts. Some people are saying Darby hit the man because he was black. There are claims of death threats and intimidation against a witness.
There were three teens in the car when Butts was killed. Darby is in jail and no charges were filed against the other two. But here’s where the story gets messier: the mother of one of the passengers told ABC 24 News she's receiving death threats from Darby's friends. Those friends told us that is not true.
"We've had a lot of threats on Facebook, people driving by our house, squealing tires in the middle of the night right when we walk through the door. Then (Friday) on the interstate they pulled up beside me giving me dirty looks, flipping me off,” said Hope Hopper.
Hopper’s son was in the car when police say Matthew Darby ran over John Butts. She said her son told her Darby did it on purpose and his friends are now threatening her for telling investigators.
“None of them had made any threats towards her or her son,” said the mother of one of Darby’s friends, Lisa Rayburn. “They haven't been riding by her house. They haven't been squealing tires. She (Hopper) even went as far as saying that she called the police and she wanted them locked up. The cops have never been here."
Hopper took pictures and videos of Darby’s friends because she says those teens were following and threatening her and her son. Rayburn says it's the other way around.
"Ms. Hopper was following them down the interstate and at that point I told Tyler (my son) to get off the road," said Rayburn.
"I haven't been threatening anybody. None of us has been threatening anybody,” said one of Darby’s friends, Chris Richardson. He says he has no idea why Hopper is making those allegations.
Senatobia police told ABC 24 News there is no report about these threats towards the Hoppers. The teens say they just miss their friend, Darby.
"He's one of my best friends in the world and look at my skin color," said Darrien Todd, an African American. “I don’t know what really happened, I just want my friend to be free, if he is innocent."
Darby remains in the Panola County Jail on a $300,000 bond.