Rape report leads to arrest of accused 'Roadside Killer'

(WMC-TV) – Investigators are calling Friday a 'glorious day' now that the man suspected of being the 'Roadside Killer' is behind bars in Tunica County, ending a frightful and deadly 10 day period.

Investigators believes the nightmare is over now that they arrested James Willie on Tuesday.

"When I got the call, I had to sit up in bed, make sure I was hearing it right," said Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby. "You know, had to wake up just a minute make sure I wasn't dreaming.

What lead investigators to Willie though, was not a shooting, but an alleged rape.

A woman from Arkansas, who was visiting her boyfriend in Tunica, escaped after being the victim of domestic violence Tuesday evening.

While on the street, she flagged down a passing car to ask for a ride to the sheriff's department. Instead of taking her where she asked to go, investigators say the driver took her to a remote field and raped her.

She briefly escaped, only to get shot at, re-captured, and taken to an apartment where she was held for a few hours before escaping through a window and calling 911.

When police arrested Willie, they found his gun and a bullet casing in the remote field where the rape happened.

Both were sent to the state crime lab for testing.

On Thursday, those tests concluded that Willie's gun was the same gun that was used to kill Tom Schlender and Lori Carswell in two separate shootings on Mississippi highways.

"We got confirmation that there was a direct correlation with the things that was recovered from the rape, crime lab, and the interstate shootings and this person became our person of interest immediately," said Sheriff Hamp.

Tunica Hamp says testing the gun is merely standard operating procedure. A common procedure that, in this case, uncovered a coincidence and ended up solving a deadly mystery.

James Willie has been locked up in the Tunica County jail since Tuesday.

Willie has not been officially charged with Schlender's murder, but prosecutors say it is only a matter of time.  They may wait to take it to a grand jury.

Regardless, this case may lead to capital charges against James Willie.

"Obviously, I gotta look at a lot of things. And it's much to early to say. We may end up charging him capital but I want to look at everything first," said Panola County District Attorney John Champion.

Willie could face the death penalty if convicted of the crimes.

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