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Murder suspect caught

LAWRENCE COUNTY — A Brookhaven man wanted for questioning inthe stabbing death of a Lawrence County woman was captured earlytoday after eluding authorities for almost 48 hours.

James A. McNeese Jr., 28, of 1362 Union Street Extension, wasapprehended around 5:30 a.m. in the Double Ponds community ofJefferson Davis County, according to a statement from the LawrenceCounty Sheriff’s Department.

McNeese, sought in connection with the death of Tanya MullinsSmith, who was stabbed to death at her home Wednesday morning, wastracked by search dogs to a hay field off Golden Pine Road, wherehe had apparently stopped to rest.

“He was found between two big rows of hay,” said Jefferson DavisCounty Sheriff Henry A. McCullum. “We also recovered certain itemsfrom him that indicated he was using drugs, and he was armed with a.357 magnum.”

Law enforcement officials from Jefferson Davis County, LawrenceCounty, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, MississippiHighway Patrol, Gaming Commission, the Mississippi Department ofWildlife and Fisheries pulled together during an extensive searchof the area Thursday.

Authorities from Jefferson Davis County were thankful to have somany people willing to help in the effort.

“We thank everybody for their help,” said McCullum. “It was ajoint effort between all law enforcement offices.”

A helicopter provided by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics,along with several K-9 units, were used inside the designated area,which covered several miles. At least 40 law enforcement vehiclespatrolled roads in the area.

Authorities were able to track McNeese to the area after a brownBronco he allegedly stole Wednesday night was discovered by a statetrooper on the side of Skating Rink Road, also called DopeRoad.

Earlier, McNeese had been traveling in a 1997 white PontiacGrand Am, which belonged to Mrs. Smith, but is believed to haveditched the car in Jefferson Davis Co. after it overheated during apursuit Wednesday evening by Marion County officials.

K-9 units were used to trail McNeese back to the hay field,which he had apparently come through earlier on Thursday afternoon.A shirt and a pack of cigarettes were discovered on top of a haybale in the field.

Authorities left the evidence on the hay bale in hopes ofMcNeese’s return, which did occur between 4 and 5:30 a.m.Friday.

The use of K-9 units, provided by the Department of Corrections,was extremely beneficial in the capture of McNeese, saidMcCullum.

“I want to commend the K-9 units, and I want to praise them forthe hours they put in,” he said.

Thursday’s search was not the first run-in McNeese has had withlaw enforcement officials.

The Lawrence County Jail Docket shows arrests for miscellaneouscharges, such as breaking and entering, malicious mischief anduttering forgery, as far back as 1994.

He was also sentenced to the Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID)program in 1994. His latest arrest was on Feb. 24, 2000, forbreaking and entering.

Although authorities have discovered that McNeese is a cousin ofthe victim’s husband, Clarence (C.C.) Smith, he has not yet beencharged with anything. McNeese is being questioned about hispossible involvement in the homicide, and authorities have notreleased a motive for the murder.

Lawrence County Sheriff Thames was en route this morning toJefferson Davis County Jail to pick up McNeese for transfer back toLawrence County.