Sheriff: Race not a motive in deadly hit-and-run - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Sheriff: Race not a motive in deadly hit-and-run

Neighbors of murder suspect Matthew Darby, 17, could not believe the charges against him. Neighbors of murder suspect Matthew Darby, 17, could not believe the charges against him.
Darby is accused of running over Johnny Butts, 61, Sunday morning and dragging him almost 70 feet along Highway 310. Darby is accused of running over Johnny Butts, 61, Sunday morning and dragging him almost 70 feet along Highway 310.
Authorities said two others were in the car with Matthew Darby when Butts was hit. Authorities said two others were in the car with Matthew Darby when Butts was hit.

(WMC-TV) - Investigators in Panola County are now ruling out race as a motive in what is now being called a hit-and-run murder.

After interviews with witnesses, authorities do not believe the crime was racially motivated, but would not rule out the likelihood that the hit-and-run may have been done on purpose.

Neighbors of 17-year-old murder suspect Matthew Darby could not believe what he was accused of.

"I was shocked, I didn't think that it was possible," said Elizabeth Walley.

Darby is accused of running over Johnny Butts, 61, early Sunday morning and dragging him almost 70 feet along Highway 310 near the town of Como.

"Based on the evidence that we have, that's why we made the charge of murder and of course that backs up the interviews and evidence," said Panola County Sheriff Dennis Darby, who is of no relation to the suspect.

No one came to the door at Matthew Darby's home Wednesday.

Authorities said two others were in the car with Matthew Darby when Butts was hit.

Race was once thought to be a possible motive, but authorities are getting a better idea of what happened after their interviews.

"As of now, because of the interview, we don't have anything to indicate that it was racially motivated," said Sheriff Darby.

Walley has known the suspect's family for years and wonders how the teenager could be accused of hitting an elderly man.

"Only God knows, but I hate it for both families," Walley continued. "The man that was killed and the Darby's."

Sheriff Darby said his thoughts are with those affected.

"To see something like this, you know I've got family, and the families are penalized for this even though they weren't involved, it hurts," Sheriff Darby said.

Matthew Darby remains in jail on the murder charge. His bond is set at $300,000.

Darby and a 15-year-old in the car were charged with felony malicious mischief after police say they broke into a church just before the hit-and-run.

An 18-year-old, who was also in the car, does not face charges for either crime.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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