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Search for Lawrence County murder suspect continues into second day

A man suspected of shooting his neighbor and setting him on fire over a land dispute remained at large in the area around Frog Ridge Road in Lawrence County Wednesday, Sheriff Lessie Butler said. The area is just southeast of East Lincoln, between Jayess and Monticello.

Sheriff’s deputies with Lawrence and Lincoln counties, other law enforcement agencies as well as Mississippi Highway Patrol SWAT units were tracking suspect Tony Wilson, he said. Volunteer firefighters assisted also.

The search was suspended for the night at 3 a.m. State fire marshals were expected to be on scene Wednesday to investigate the burned structures, he said.

Butler said authorities suspect Wilson, 56, shot his neighbor, Henry Peavey, over a land dispute and then set Peavey’s house on fire with him and his wife, Kathryn, in it. It is not known if Kathryn Peavey was shot as well, but she was transferred to University of Mississippi Medical Center earlier Tuesday with burns. She was listed in serious condition Tuesday night.

Butler said he believes Kathryn Peavey had trauma to her head “as if she was hit.”

He said it appears that Henry Peavey may have been set on fire. The Peavey house and another structure were burned after the shooting, he said. One building was a total loss, he said.

MHP Cpl. Brandon Fortenberry said a mobile home on the property that Wilson was thought to be hiding in was cleared earlier.

“MHP units, MHP SWAT team, along with other agencies and helicopter are on scene attempting to locate the suspect at this time. We have a large perimeter being covered,” Fortenberry said at about 4 p.m.

Tracker dogs were expected to arrive from Angie, Louisiana, to aid in the search, he said.

Butler suspects that Wilson was still in the area around Frog Ridge Road but would be difficult to find at night.

“He’s one of those kind of people who are real familiar with the woods,” he said.

Butler got the call about the shooting about 11:45 a.m. today.

“Tony’s girlfriend called and said Tony had killed Mr. Peavey and set his house on fire,” Butler said.

While Butler rounded up deputies, he had the woman call 911 to make the report to have a tape of the conversation.

Butler said the two men have been involved in a land dispute for many years and that Peavey was granted the land by a court ruling.

Robert Langille, Wilson’s brother-in-law, told The Associated Press that Wilson’s father had paid taxes on a small parcel of land for years, but that Peavey had won legal title.

Langille said Wilson has sought help from sheriff’s deputies in the dispute but they had consistently sided against him.

Wilson had recently bonded out of Lawrence County jail where he’d been held on charges of violating a restraining order that was meant to keep him off of the Peaveys’ land. Butler said when deputies attempted to serve the warrant for violating the order in October 2016, Wilson allegedly pulled a gun on them. He was charged with aggravated assault on a law officer, he said. Wilson’s court date for that charge is in January, Butler said.

Wilson’s home is less than a mile from the Peaveys’ house, Butler said.

A friend and neighbor of the Peaveys said the land belonged to the elderly couple.

“It was just a couple of acres,” said Ann Givens.

“They’ve been neighbors for years. Mr. Henry has had that land since 1938,” she said. “This has been going on for quite a while. The land was Mr. Henry’s. Tony couldn’t take that.”

She said someone cut a fence down on Peavey’s property last week.

“He’d just put up a new one,” she said.

Peavey was a retired educator who taught at Topeka Tilton Attendance Center. He also taught at Brookhaven High School during his career.

“There’s not many people that don’t know him,” Givens said.

She said the Peaveys would visit her husband, who has medical issues, to tell him jokes and stories to cheer him up.

“Mr. Henry and Miss Kathryn would sit for hours,” she said.

Langille admitted that Wilson had a “rough name” in the area.

“My brother-in-law is a person you don’t mess with,” he said. “I’d call him a man’s man.”

He said he doesn’t believe Wilson would have shot Peavey without provocation.

“He’s not no murderer, by no means,” he said.

Langille said Wilson is an experienced woodsman and could elude police for a long time.

“If he doesn’t want to be found, he’ll live in the woods forever,” Langille said.