Arrest made in 1997 killing

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MONTICELLO – A cousin and neighbor was arrested Tuesday in thenearly 10-year-old killing of William Clayton “Clay” Lambert.

Henry Lambert, 50, 271 Lambert Road, Jayess, has been chargedwith murder and his wife, Sandra Lambert, 41, has been charged withaccessory after the fact, said Lawrence County Sheriff JoelThames.

“After 10 years, this long nightmare for the Lambert family isover,” the sheriff said in announcing the arrests at a Tuesdaypress conference.

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Law enforcement authorities are also searching for a thirdsuspect on an accessory after the fact charge, Thames said. He didnot name the suspect.

“They will probably be arrested and in custody today,” RaySmith, an investigator with the sheriff’s department, said thismorning.

Henry Lambert was denied bond by Justice Court Judge DonnieMullins during an initial hearing Tuesday afternoon. Sandra Lamberthas been released on a $5,000 bond, authorities said.

Thames said he could not reveal any details of the case nordiscuss the motive behind the crime.

“I can’t go into details on that right now,” he said.

Clay Lambert, 32, of Lambert Road, Jayess, died of a singlegunshot wound to the neck from a small caliber handgun. Hisdecomposing body was found Aug. 8, 1997, in the back of his redFord pickup in a wooded area off Evans Loop Road on the westernedge of the county.

He is believed to have been shot within hours of leaving hishome on Friday, July 31, 1997.

A search initiated by concerned family members was begun forClay Lambert the following Monday. A landowner found his body about20 feet from the Lawrence-Lincoln county line five days later.

“It was one of the most gruesome crimes I’ve ever been involvedin solving,” Thames said. “I live about two miles from where he wasfound. I’ve known this family all my life and I’m proud to bringsome closure in this matter.”

Chad Lambert, Clay Lambert’s brother, said he was surprised tosee an arrest made in the case after almost a decade of suspicionand worry.

“I was afraid it was so cold we’d never get anything done withit,” he said. “It’s a good day. We’ve waited a long time. As longas the person is walking around free like he has for the past 10years, you can never really get closure.”

A tearful Peggy Lambert, Clay Lambert’s mother, said the familyhad prayed for this day to come.

“I still wake up when I hear an eighteen-wheeler or a loud truckgo by thinking Clay is coming home because I couldn’t see him (inthe coffin),” she said of her son, who was a truck driver.

She only wished his father, Clayton Lambert, had lived to seeit. Clayton Lambert died in November 2006.

“His daddy stood at his closed coffin and promised we wouldnever give up. He just didn’t make it,” she said. “He has put ourfamily through hell and back and maybe, maybe we can get somejustice. I want him to serve the rest of his life behind bars.”

Henry Lambert had been a suspect in the case from the beginning,Thames said, but it took several new developments in the case toprovide the evidence needed to charge him. He did not elaborate onthose developments.

“I just hope that justice is served whatever happens,” ChadLambert said. “I just want to put it behind us, especially for mymother.”

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the state’s ColdCase Unit assisted in the investigation, Thames said.

The Lambert case is the second cold case to be solved by theLawrence County Sheriff’s Department in six months.

Ira A. Boudreaux, 55, a former resident of Jesup, Ga., pleadedguilty to two counts of accessory to murder in December in theslaying of Brock and Annie Burnette 20 years ago. Boudreaux wasarrested in September.

Boudreaux was one of three alleged suspects in the crime, butone has died and authorities believe a second suspect may also havedied.

Brock and Annie Burnette were killed in February 1986,apparently the victims of a botched burglary attempt at their homeon Holmesville Road.

The couple’s bodies were found in their vehicle the followingMonday on timber company land between Divide and Robinwood. Bothhad been shot by a large caliber handgun.

Thames said when he was elected eight years ago he promised tomake three unsolved murders a priority of his term in office.

The arrest of Boudreaux and Henry Lambert solves two of thosecases and investigators will now work diligently to solve thethird, he said. Thames declined to identify the third case becauseit could jeopardize developing leads.