August 3, 2018 10:19:53 AM
Isabelle Altman - [email protected]
A man authorities believe to have killed a Starkville man missing since last week is currently in custody on unrelated charges.
Joshua Murry, 27, of 705 N. Browder St. in Columbus, is at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center on a contempt of court charge, but Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge identified him Thursday afternoon as a person of interest in the murder of 24-year-old Jarrel Devonte Ward.
"We feel very confident that in the very near future, maybe just within a day or so, that the charges will be filed against this subject," Arledge said at a press conference in his office.
Arledge declined to comment on motive or whether Murry is the only suspect in the case.
Ward had been missing since last week, and his family filed a formal report of his disappearance to Starkville Police Department on Saturday.
Lowndes County Sheriff's Office received a call about a body found in a wooded area off Sand Road Wednesday night. County Coroner Greg Merchant later identified the body as Ward's. Merchant said it had been there "several days."
Ward's body has been taken to a crime lab in Jackson. Arledge declined to release details on how exactly Ward was killed.
Arledge said LCSO investigators met with SPD, the District Attorney's Office and other local law enforcement agencies Thursday morning to "compare notes" and exchange evidence in the case. While it is a multi-agency investigation, Arledge said, LCSO has taken the lead because Ward's body was found in the county's jurisdiction.
"There's a lot of questions that's unanswered at this time," Arledge said. "... Did the homicide occur there, or did it occur somewhere else in the county or somewhere else in the city and it was placed there? That's some of the things we're trying to get answers on and what we're trying to find out. We've been working this around the clock."
Columbus police arrested Murry Wednesday for contempt of court, a misdemeanor charge. The Dispatch has submitted a request for Murry's arrest report with Columbus Municipal Court.
Murry also pleaded guilty in May 2016 to possession of marijuana, also a misdemeanor, according to Lowndes County Circuit Court records. Murry was sentenced to five years probation.
Ward's family first contacted Columbus Police Department last week. Police Chief Fred Shelton previously told The Dispatch investigators recommended Ward's family report a missing persons report with SPD, since Ward is a Starkville resident. Shelton added Ward was last reported seen at the Donut Factory off Highway 45 North in Columbus.
Arledge said he hopes to have evidence processed through the crime lab and returned to LCSO quickly.
"Some people think that you can go into an investigation like this and within hours or a couple of days that even if you get a suspect or even if you make an arrest, it's over with," he said. "But a lot of times it may go for weeks and weeks, maybe months, that you're still collecting evidence and you're still interviewing witnesses."
He added if anyone has information on Ward's death, they should call their local law enforcement office, LCSO at 662-328-6788 or Golden Triangle Crime Stoppers at 1-800-530-7151.