By HANNAH RAND
PUBLISHED: 07:53 EST, 18 May 2012 | UPDATED: 08:08 EST, 18 May 2012
Police have arrested a suspect in two fatal highway shootings in Mississippi that prompted warnings a fake officer might be pulling over victims.
Authorities said early Friday that the fears of an impostor turned out to be unfounded.
Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain told Associated Press that the suspect, James D Willie, 28, had not been posing as a police officer in the shootings.
James D Willie, 28, is being held on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and rape and will be formally charged with two counts of capital murder
Willie was being held on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and rape and would be formally charged with two counts of capital murder, said Mr Strain.
Willie was being held at the Tunica County jail in north Mississippi.
He was arrested Tuesday morning when authorities responded to a disturbance at an apartment.
Tunica police found Willie with a woman who claimed he had raped her, a news release said.
When Willie was arrested, authorities found a 9mm Ruger in his possession.
Ballistic testing later found that it was the same gun used in the two highway shootings, authorities said.
Mr Strain said Willie is a convicted felon but he did not have details about his previous arrests.
Thomas Schlender, 74, of Raymond, Nebraska, was found dead in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County on May 8 around 1.30am.
Mr Schlender had been driving from Nebraska to Florida to pick up his grandson.
Lori Anne Carswell, 48, of Hernando, Mississippi, was found dead near her car on Mississippi Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County about 2.15am on May 11.
Ms Carswell had just left work from Fitzgerald’s Casino, also known as the Fitz Casino, in Tunica County when she was killed.
There was no apparent motive for the murders.
Mr Strain said it’s too early in the investigation to release details of how or why the motorists were on the side of the roads.
Mr Strain said authorities developed several theories during the investigation and one of those was that someone could be posing as an officer to pull people over because there was no apparent reason for the victims to pull over.
‘If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of public safety,’ Mr Strain said.
‘The fact is that we got him off the street and people can go back to a level of comfort.’
Govenor Phil Bryant and Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz said in a statement early Friday that investigators spent hundreds of hours working the case and the state Bureau of Investigation and state crime lab used all the resources it had available.
‘Our citizens have been terrorised by these murders and we worked tirelessly to resolve them,’ Commissioner Santa Cruz said.