Fear of shooter

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Fear may be running rumor mill

By Billy Davis

Some people are on edge in Panola County after a pair of shooting deaths last week but the county has been spared any more violence since a Nebraska man was killed here May 8.

No other shootings have occurred in Panola County despite rumors to the contrary, Panola sheriff’s investigator Bill McGee said Thursday.

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“I can’t speak for anywhere else,” McGee said. “But we haven’t had any more shootings since that night in our county.”

Thomas Schlender, 74, of Nebraska was traveling south on Interstate 55 when he was shot and killed at the Pope-Courtland exit south of Batesville at about 1:40 a.m. (See related story, page A1).

The Miss. Bureau of Investigation (MBI) is leading the murder investigation of Schlender and of Lori Ann Carswell, 48, of Hernando.

Carswell was killed early in the morning May 11 in Tunica County, three days after Schlender, as she was driving home from work at a casino.

Robbery has not been ruled out as a possible motive. A family member of Schlender told The Commercial Appeal this week the murder victim’s wallet was missing from his pickup truck. Schlender was probably carrying as much as $600 for his trip to Florida, the relative told the Memphis newspaper.  

Authorities have not reported any similar murders, though law enforcement officials have told the public to be alert while traveling alone and at night.

Hundreds of tips have reportedly poured in to authorities since the killings. Crime Stoppers programs in three counties — Panola, Tunica and Desoto counties — are each offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Authorities have said the killings were connected and The Panolian reported Tuesday that bullet hulls recovered from both crime scenes matched the same nine-millimeter firearm.

The director of MBI said last week authorities are floating the possibility someone was posing as a law enforcement officer when that person killed Schlender and later Carswell, a theory that likely created concern from an already-worried public.

McGee said he has received numerous phone calls and cell phone texts from Panola Countians asking him about reports of shootings in Panola County.

“Most of it is hard to believe, like a shooting that supposedly killed six people,” McGee said. “How can you really believe that? It’s just talk.”