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Search yet to produce murder weapon

MONTICELLO — Law enforcement officials cast their net in adrained pond for a lost murder weapon this weekend, but came upempty.

Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames and volunteers from theLawrence and Lincoln County Civil Defenses and area volunteer firedepartments joined forces to drain and search a pond on China GroveRoad for the weapon used in a five-year-old murder case.

“We didn’t come up with anything as of yet,” Thames said. “Itwas a shot in the dark, but if we had not made the effort we wouldalways wonder if the weapon was there.”

The sheriff’s office was working on an anonymous tip receivedwhile the former sheriff, Willie Mullins, was in office, Thamessaid. That tip indicated the weapon used in the slaying of ClayLambert, 32, of Jayess, in 1997 was thrown in the pond.

“Upon reopening the case, we received some information whichseem to confirm the tip former Sheriff Mullins had received,”Thames said.

The agencies began draining the pond on Robert Hart’s propertyon China Grove Road around 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thames said. It tookuntil late afternoon Thursday for the pond to drain.

“It was cheaper, and less damaging, to drain the pond ratherthan cut the dam,” he said.

Metal detectors were used during two searches made Friday, butno weapon was found.

The sheriff said he was impressed by what the metal detectorswere able to locate. A bullet, probably used while shootingturtles, he said, was found beneath more than a foot and half ofmud.

“If a weapon had been there I feel certain we would found it,”Thames said. “I hope, if nothing else, this will revive interest inthe case and people will start talking.”

Lambert was reported missing by his father on July 31, 1997,Thames said. He was found in the back of his truck Aug. 8 in themiddle of some woods on private property off Evans Loop, near theLincoln County line. He has been shot once in the neck. No motivehas been disclosed.

The sheriff said he is considering draining two other ponds inthe area, but has not made a decision yet. Landowners must becontacted if the decision is made to drain the ponds.

“We are aggressively seeking any information on this andhopefully someone will remember something that hasn’t been broughtup to law enforcement yet,” he said.

In a related event, Thames said, someone painted graffiti onChina Grove Road near the pond draining Friday night after deputiesand volunteers had left the scene. The graffiti said things relatedto the case, he said.

“Somebody is apparently upset about us reopening the case, orthey’re just wanting to stir something up,” the sheriff said.

Also, late Saturday evening, someone shot one of Hart’s horseswith buckshot during a drive-by. The horse is still standing, butis in danger of infection.

“Right now we can’t say if the events are related,” Thamessaid.

A reward has been offered in the horse shooting.