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Young mother stabbed to death

LAWRENCE COUNTY — Authorities are searching for a LincolnCounty man today following the stabbing death of a young motherWednesday morning at her home on Old Highway 27.

According to a statement issued by the Lawrence County Sheriff’sDepartment, residents of Lawrence and neighboring counties shouldbe on the look out for James A. McNeese Jr., a 28-year-old whitemale with a criminal record.

McNeese, of 1362 Union Street Extension, Brookhaven, is wantedfor questioning in the murder of Tanya Mullins Smith, 25, who diedof stab wounds at her home on Old Highway 27 yesterday morning.

Smith was at home with her 11-month-old baby while her husband,Clarence (C.C.) Smith was away working in Denham Springs, La., whenMcNeese allegedly gained entry to the house, authorities said.

Smith’s body and the baby, who was not harmed, were discoveredby Smith’s best friend, Jane Bell Selman, when she stopped by tovisit. Authorities would not comment on a motive in the homicide,but they hoped to get some answers from the suspect soon.

McNeese, who is five feet-seven inches tall, was last seen atapproximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday near Columbia in Marion County.He was driving Smith’s 1997 white Pontiac Grand Am GT, bearingLawrence County tag KEH 209, with damage to the left frontfender.

Marion County sheriff’s deputies were involved in a pursuit ofMcNeese, but he was able to elude authorities. It is believedMcNeese may have switched vehicles several times since the pursuit,said a spokesman with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone with information about the homicide or the suspect’swhereabouts is urged to call the Lawrence County Sheriff’sDepartment at 587-2961. Law enforcement officials advised thatcaution should be used around the suspect.

“This subject should be considered armed and dangerous,” said aspokesman with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.

In addition to law enforcement officials, several state agenciesare also involved in the investigation.

“We are conducting an extremely thorough criminal investigationalong with the Mississippi Crime Lab and the state medicalexaminer’s office,” said Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Joe Ward.

Ward would not release further information concerning thespecifics in the investigation, but he did describe it as “aviolent death.”

Family members at he scene Wednesday described the victim as a”very nice and cheerful person.”

“She was just a real likable child,” said her uncle, DavidBryant. “She was always smiling, and she had a really big smile,too.”

Her brother, Alan Ball, recalled the many times they spenttogether participating in activities such as swimming or eatingout.

“She just liked to have a lot of fun and just enjoy life,” hesaid. “We had a good time just being together.”

Catchings Funeral Home in McComb will be in charge of funeralarrangements following an autopsy.