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Lawrence County sheriff believes accused killer is still in the area

The sheriff of Lawrence County is asking the public for help to locate Tony Wilson, who is suspected of shooting a retired teacher in the back before setting the house on fire over a land dispute in the Jayess community.

Henry Peavey was shot to death Dec. 19 at his late mother’s house.

Wilson, 56, of Frog Ridge Road, is also accused of beating Peavey’s wife, Kathryn, at the Peaveys’ home less than a half mile away and then burning it with her inside.

Sheriff Lessie Butler said Kathryn Peavey is still in critical condition at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Wilson fled after his girlfriend called Butler and told him Wilson had shot Peavey, beat his wife and set their home on fire.

More than a week later, authorities are still following leads to his whereabouts.

Butler said he’s working with U.S. marshals and Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to continue the search for Wilson. His hunch is that Wilson, a welder who knows the area, is still in Lawrence County because he won’t leave the land that was at the issue between the two neighbors.

“I’ve got a gut feeling that he’s not going to leave. This was a big deal to him,” Butler said.

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

Wilson’s land connected to Peavey’s mother’s land, where Peavey was killed.

Friends and family could be assisting Wilson, Butler said, but if that’s found to be the case, they will be prosecuted to the fullest.

Butler encourages anyone who has information that could help police locate Wilson to call the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Metro Crime Stoppers tip line at 601-582-7867.

“We’re going to keep working on it. We’re not going to quit, until we bring him to justice,” Butler said. “We’d love for him to turn himself in, but I don’t expect that to happen.”

Butler said the 78-year-old Peavey was dead before Wilson allegedly used an accelerant to burn his body and the house.

Kathryn Peavey was found at their home on Frog Ridge Road. The house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. They were then alerted to a second fire down the street at the home of Henry Peavey’s mother. They were able to put out that fire there before the house was destroyed. Henry Peavey’s body was located inside.

Butler suspects the alleged killer intended for Kathryn Peavey to die in the blaze.

A GoFundMe account has been set up in Kathryn Peavey’s name by the couple’s granddaughter, Alexa Peavey. She is the daughter of the Peavey’s son, Tony. The couple’s other son, Kenny, is a pastor at Edna Baptist Church in Columbia.

“My grandfather and father to my dad and uncle, Henry Peavey, was murdered and burned,” Alexa Peavey posted on the GoFundMe page. “His wife, Kathryn Peavey, was brutally beaten in their home in Jayess, Ms. She was left inside the house to die, but luckily was rescued.”

Peavey said her grandmother has been left with nothing to return to.

“Unfortunately, their home that my grandfather and his father built together that my grandparents also lived in for years is gone forever. My grandmother no longer has a place to live, clothes to wear or everyday items that she needs,” she wrote. “My grandparents were adored and loved throughout their community. They would help anyone in need and give them the shirts off their own backs.”

Henry Peavey taught at Topeka Tilton Attendance Center and Brookhaven High School before his retirement.

The fund has raised $3,188 toward its goal of $20,000.

Peavey, who lives in Pennsylvania, told The Daily Leader Wednesday that her grandmother is still in the hospital, but has been left with mounting medical and funeral bills and has lost her home and belongings. That’s why her granddaughter started the fund.

“She has nothing,” she said. “It’s going toward that.”

She said the community has rallied together to offer support to her family through this tragedy.

“People are definitely reaching out to us,” she said.

She said the Peaveys are a close family and it’s been difficult to process the murder of her grandfather and beating of her grandmother.

“It’s really devastating to know that this happens. We’re all just devastated,” she said.

Butler said when the shooting occurred, Wilson had just bonded out of jail where he was being held on charges of violating a restraining order that was meant to keep him off Peavey’s property. When officers went to serve that warrant, he allegedly pulled a gun on them and was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer. He faces a court date for the assault charge in January, Butler said. 

Neighbor Ann Givens said Peavey had recently put up a fence on his property that had been cut. It’s unclear who cut the fence, she said.

Tony Wilson