Officers never let up

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2016

Panola County Sheriff’s Department Major Barry Thompson (from left), Sheriff Dennis Darby and U. S. Deputy Marshal Clint Roberson (right) escort Julius Orlando Bland of Grenada into the jail Thursday following his arrest on charges of rape and kidnapping stemming from a Sunday afternoon incident that started near Pope. The Panolian photo by John Howell

Officers ‘never let up;’ suspect in custody

By John Howell
The suspect in a rape Sunday near Pope was apprehended Thursday in Grenada by officers of the U.S. Marshal’s Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force after an intense investigation by the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Dennis Darby said.
Sheriff’s Department Major Barry Thompson said that the 23-year-old victim was driving from Crowder en route to Enid Dam about 1 to 1:30 p.m. when a man flagged her down and warned her that “something was in the road and she needed to stop.”
The suspect began to physically assault the young woman and disabled her car after a struggle.
“He pulled her from her car, placed her in his trunk and took her to two separate locations in Tallahatchie County where he allegedly raped her several times” over the next few hours, Thompson said.
Meanwhile, a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks conservation officer had discovered the victim’s car where she had run off the road and become stuck. She had put the car in reverse in an attempt to flee, according to sheriff’s department detective Jason Chrestman, whom Thompson praised, along with deputy sheriff John Still. “They never let up,” Thompson said.
The conservation officer notified the sheriff’s department which had the vehicle towed. Officers began their inquiry about the driver’s whereabouts.
The suspect eventually released his victim who managed to flag down a passing motorist who took her home. Once she arrived at home, the victim’s mother called the sheriff and took her to Merit Health Batesville Emergency Room for treatment.
The investigation got a break from a passerby who had noticed the suspect’s vehicle parked on a road near his leased hunting land and wrote down the tag number, Thompson said. With a photo lineup that included a photo of the person linked with the vehicle by that license tag number, the victim picked out Julius Orlando Bland of Grenada as the suspect.
By Thursday morning, the marshal’s fugitive task force had identified six possible locations in Grenada where they might find Bland. At the second address they visited the four-person marshal’s team, led by Deputy U. S. Marshal Clint Roberson of Batesville, were met by the suspect’s father, who told them that Bland had been there but had run out the back door.
“We already had someone watching the back, so we knew he was inside,” Roberson said. “We began clearing the house and found him hiding in the bathroom. Once he was discovered, he was compliant,” Roberson continued.
The marshals returned with Bland to the Panola County jail about 10:30 a.m. Thursday where they were met by the sheriff and investigators who had worked on the case.  The suspect was led inside in handcuffs and leg shackles.
“We’re getting more information from the general public than we’ve ever had before,” Darby said. “People are learning to trust us: we don’t want your name, just your information.”
Chrestman, a 27-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, said that as tragic as the ordeal proved for the victim, she may have narrowly escaped death.
“What we’ve seen is that when (a suspect) does this once and gets away with it, the next time he’s more likely to kill his victim.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox