Nebraska man murdered

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2012

Slain Nebraska man was on trip to get grandson

By Billy Davis
The mysterious shooting death of a Nebraska man on Interstate 55 early Tuesday morning remains just that for now: an unsolved murder.

“Right now we just don’t know what happened,” Panola Sheriff Dennis Darby said late Thursday.

Thomas Schlender was shot and killed in a hail of gunfire as he drove south on the interstate, said Darby. He was 74.

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Schlender was driving from Nebraska to Florida to pick up a grandson from college according to press reports.

Schlender was a retired supervisor for an electric company. He is from Raymond, Nebraska, located in the southeast corner of the state.  

Interstate drivers called the Mississippi Highway Patrol at 1:40 a.m. to report an erratic driver. Local law enforcement found Schlender’s Ford F-150 truck at the Pope-Courtland exit, where the automobile had crashed into the center lane divider.

Authorities have said at least five shots were fired at the truck since five bullet holes were found in the driver’s door according to press reports.

The glass was also broken from the windows, suggesting more shots were likely fired.

An autopsy confirmed Schlender died from multiple gunshot wounds, said Panola coroner Gracie Grant-Gulledge.

Darby said Panolians should not be afraid after the shooting.

“There’s no need for people to worry over this. It’s a random act,” Darby said. “It’s just sad a man drives all that way and gets killed in Panola County.”

The Miss. Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation of the homicide, with help from local authorities.

A spokesman for the Miss. Highway Patrol did not return phone calls to The Panolian about the investigation.

The truck driven by Schlender was being examined at the state crime lab this week at the Mississippi Highway Patrol headquarters in Batesville.

Darby said investigators are examining the pickup and attempting to lift fingerprints from bullet casings found at the crime scene.

Gulledge said Schlender’s body is awaiting transport to his home state after it was returned to Panola County from the state medical examiner’s office.

Funeral arrangements for Schlender are incomplete according to a funeral home, Metcalf, in Lincoln, Nebraska.