GALLMAN, Miss. (AP) – The bodies of a man, woman and young boy
believed to be members of a family that went missing were found Tuesday
in Mississippi, not far from where investigators recovered their burned
car last weekend, authorities said.
Sheriff Harold Jones in Mississippi's Copiah County
said the bodies were discovered in an abandoned house about a mile from
where the family's vehicle was located Saturday in a remote area
southwest of Jackson.
Jones says the man who led authorities to the
bodies, 42-year-old Timothy Lydell Burns, is being charged with arson of
a vehicle. The sheriff said other charges are likely.
“We're going to be questioning him about that
probably in the morning,” Jones said. “Everyone's got to have some rest.
We've been at this for probably 48 hours.”
Jones said he's not sure why Burns, who was booked
into the county jail in Gallman on Tuesday, led authorities to the
bodies on Tuesday morning at the wood frame house.
Copiah County Coroner Ellis Stuart said the bodies
matched the descriptions of Jaidon Hill, 7, Atira Hill-Smith, 30, and
Laterry Smith, 34. He said all three had been shot. The bodies will
undergo identification and autopsies in Jackson, Stuart added.
About 150 people gathered at a Tuesday night prayer
vigil at Stonebridge Elementary school in Brandon to remember Jaidon, a
second-grader there. Principal Sue Townsend called the killing
“senseless” and remembered the student as warm and affectionate.
“They're not kidding when they say he smiled all
the time and I just want that happiness to be remembered instead of how
he died,” Townsend said after the service.
Rev. Wayne Bass, pastor of Brandon's Trinity United
Methodist Church, has been counseling family members since the three
were reported missing Friday. He said relatives are still in shock.
“Right now, everything is very surreal. They really
don't have a full grasp of everything that has happened,” Bass said
after the candlelit vigil.
The family's vehicle was found wrecked and burning
around dawn Saturday by a motorist on a local road off Mississippi
Highway 18 in the county. The motorist's husband put out the small fire
with a bucket of water, Jones said.
On Monday, Jackson police recovered items linked to
the family, including clothing and Atira Hill-Smith's ID card for the
University of Mississippi Medical Center where she worked. Authorities
say the items were recovered from a garbage bin at a gas station in
south Jackson. Jones said he believes the three where abducted in south
Warren Strain, a spokesman for the Mississippi
Bureau of Investigation, said investigators determined that Burns was a
suspect, but didn't say how. Strain said authorities began watching
Burns at a south Jackson motel Monday and arrested him around 11:30 p.m.
that night when he went to a gas station. Strain said Burns was
questioned at MBI headquarters in Jackson and he took authorities to the
bodies by 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Jones said investigators don't know of any
connection at this point between the family and Burns, a Jackson
resident. Jones said Burns has a criminal history, but he wouldn't
The sheriff said cars are sometimes abandoned and
burned in the rural, wooded area, but authorities became alarmed when
they found the car overturned. Jones said he believed Burns was driving
the vehicle and had an accident.
“We do believe he tried to burn the vehicle,” Jones said of Burns. “The accident was not staged. He had an actual wreck.”
Jones said authorities aren't sure if the Smiths and Hill were in the car at the time of the crash.
On Saturday, someone tried to use an ATM card that
belonged to the family in Port Gibson, a town just across the county
line from where the vehicle and bodies were found, Jones said. He added
authorities had yet to collect surveillance video or other evidence in
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