A 24-year-old Starkville man missing since last week likely was killed somewhere else and then dumped of a rural Lowndes County road before being discovered Wednesday night, investigators say.
And information from Jarrel Ward’s family about his whereabouts and connections led Lowndes County investigators to name 27-year-old Joshua Murry, of Columbus, as a person of interest in Ward’s death.
“We are confident we will file charges on him soon in connection with this death, for murder,” Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge said.
“The family provided information about who he was with and what he was doing. Some of that information point to Murry as a possible person,” said Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton.
When asked for further details, Shelton declined, deferring to the Sheriff’s Department, which is handling the investigation since the body was found outside the city limits.
Arledge also declined to be specific, citing the ongoing probe.
“Those are details we don’t want to get into at this point. We don’t want to harm the case or talk about specific evidence,” Arledge said, noting evidence will be sent to the Mississippi Crime Lab in Pearl for testing.
An autopsy on Ward’s body could be performed as early as Friday.
Murry was arrested by Columbus Police Wednesday afternoon, three hours before Ward’s body was found, on contempt of court charges. He faces similar charges from Lowndes County Justice Court. The charges stemmed from missed dates in Municipal and Justice Court.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections also has a hold on him for probation violations stemming from old drug convictions.
Murry is on probation in Lowndes County Circuit Court for sale of marijuana and other drug-related charges. They all stemmed from his arrests in December 2013 and April 2014 for sales to an undercover agent.
Since being placed on probation in Lowndes County Circuit Court on the drug charges in May 2016, he’s been arrested on misdemeanor charges in Columbus and Lowndes County but failed to show up or pay fines.
According to Ward’s family, Ward was last seen Thursday morning, when he was dropped off at the Donut Factory on Highway 45 at Highway 82 in Columbus. They reported him missing to Columbus Police Friday afternoon and to Starkville Police Saturday morning.
Ward’s body was found about 7 p.m. Wednesday in the 900 block of Sand Road just north of Columbus by a resident of the area who was attracted by the odor. The body was about 200 yards off the road on the edge of a path along the edge of a wooded area.
Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant speculated from the condition of the body and other factors, Ward had been dead “several days.”
While he wouldn’t discuss the wounds or injuries, the veteran coroner said he thought he was killed somewhere else and dumped where it was found.
And asked about blood at the scene, he said, “There wasn’t enough blood there to worry about,” both because of rains and because he likely was killed somewhere else and dumped which would not have left much blood.
There was a house about 75 yards away through the woods and the people drove by the area every day to get the mail but had not noticed the body, Merchant said.
“We are being methodical and working the case to bring justice to the family,” Arledge said.
Starkville Police Department Public Information Officer Brandon Lovelady said the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney Scott Colom’s Office and SPD are coordinating the investigation. The groups met Thursday morning to go over evidence and coordinate details.