Mississippi authorities have charged James D. Willie, 28, for two highway murders initially thought to be the work of a fake police officer.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol's Bureau of Investigation, the Tunica Police Department, and the Tunica County Sheriff's Office coordinated the investigation that led to Willie's arrest on Tuesday.

Willie, a Sardis resident, was arrested by Tunica police who responded to a reported disturbance at an apartment at 2661 Old Highway 61. Authorities found Willie with a woman who alleged he had raped her.

Officers recovered a Ruger 9mm, semi-automatic handgun from Willie. State crime lab scientists determined that the weapon matched the weapon used in the two murders in northwest Mississippi last week.

"Hundreds of man hours have been devoted to tracking down and arresting this individual," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "Public safety is of paramount concern to us. Just as a week ago, with the resolution of the kidnap/murder case in north Mississippi, again we see the effective results of a unified effort of several law enforcement agencies working together."

At 1:30 a.m. on May 8, Thomas K. Schlender, 74, of Raymond, Nebraska was found in his 1999 Ford F-150 pick-up truck in the median of southbound Interstate 55. At 2:15 a.m. on May 11, Lori Anne Carswell, 48, of Hernando was found beside her 1997 Pontiac Grand Am. The car was on the shoulder of MS 713.

Schlender's car was found in the median of Interstate 55 near the Pope exit in Panola County and Carswell’s car was located in Tunica County near the intersection of MS713 and Interstate 69.

"The Bureau of Investigation and Crime Laboratory dedicated all resources available to this investigation," said Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz. "Our citizens have been terrorized by these murders and we worked tirelessly to resolve them."

Related:

Fake Officer May Be Behind Miss. Road Deaths

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