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Only on ABC24: Eyewitness to Mississippi Highway Shooting

The Tunica Sheriff's Department says there's an eyewitness account proving James Willie is the highway shooter.
TUNICA COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - There is an eyewitness to one of the two Mississippi highway killings.

Investigators are sharing exclusive new information with ABC24 on the same day accused shooter James Willie appeared in Tunica County court. Authorities are also officially ruling out a theory Willie posed as a police officer to lure victims to the side of the road.

Investigators say the new testimony guarantees a rock solid case against the accused killer. They already had a gun authorities believe tied him to the two highway murders, but this is the first time they're confirming someone saw Willie commit one of the shootings.

He hasn't confessed to the crime, but the Tunica Sheriff's Department says they don't need a confession to convict.

"I'm sure he is responsible for both homicides," says Sheriff K.C. Hamp. "All evidence points to Mr. James Willie."

Hamp says the new eyewitness account proves Willie pulled the trigger that killed Lori Ann Carswell on a Tunica highway.

"We have developed an eyewitness in this case," he tells abc24.com. "We have ruled out that a blue light or any police equipment was used to pull them over in Tunica County."

Instead Hamp says Willie drove alongside Carswell, motioning her to pull over. "He flashed his lights and got close to the vehicle and waved her off the road."

She probably thought someone was in trouble. We have good Samaritans every day out there. This one, she was taken advantage of."

Hamp says Willie shot Carswell in the head. The motive? Robbery.

"Her purse was left behind. There was no money in it."

Investigators believe the same gun used to kill Carswelll was fired in the Panola County roadside shooting of 74-year-old Thomas Schlender, as well as a rape Willie is charged with committing.

"All the crime scenes have a direct correlation," he says.

Willie is a convicted felon, having served time for burglary.

His father finds it hard to believe he's a killer. "We want to find out the real truth," says Johnny Youngblood.

"Did he have the gun? He wasn't able to buy a gun, so the gun did it come from somewhere? The gun did not belong to him because he already had a felony."

Investigators tell us Willie is deeply dependant on drugs. His father says he has a medical problem, possibly schizophrenia.

"Over the last 10 years he got off his medication. He just stopped taking it and he thought he could make it on his own. I see today he couldn't make it."

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom when Willie appeared before a Tunica County judge on May 21. He is being held in isolation in Tunica County Jail on suicide watch, which Hamp says is standard for inmates charged with murder.

His bond is set at $1.25 million.

Willie is charged with capital murder in Carswell's death. His case goes to the Tunica grand jury in the fall. He also faces charges in Panola County for Schlender's highway murder. That case goes to the grand jury in June.


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