Authorities are warning motorists to be extremely careful when traveling late at night or in the early morning hours along Interstate 55 and county highways in northwest Mississippi.
Two people were shot dead in separate shooting incidents
last Tuesday and Friday.
In both cases victims were shot and their vehicles left on the side of the road.
There has been widespread speculation the two victims were pulled over by someone posing as a law enforcement officer using blue flashing police lights on an unmarked car.
However, Champion would not confirm the "blue light theory," adding that he was not going to speculate on theories or rumors swirling around the case.
In the next breath, Champion said motorists have a right to drive slowly to "a place of safety" with their flashing lights turned on if they are pulled over by a vehicle with flashing blue lights, presumably a law enforcement officer.
Champion said citizens do not have blanket permission to ignore an officer who pulls over a vehicle.
"You have the right to turn on flashing lights and pull to a lighted, safe area,"
Champion said. "It doesn't give you carte blanche right not to stop at all."
Shell casings left at the scene, possibly from the weapon, indicate the two shootings may be related
, according to sources close to the investigation.
Champion would not confirm the caliber of the weapon, number of shots fired or disclose evidence collected, only that evidence had been collected in addition to shell casings found at the scene.
"Due to the area and the time of day, we do not have any witnesses," Champion said. "We are asking for the community's help."
"There are some similarities between the two incidents, mainly the fact they happened alongside a Mississippi highway," Lt. Col. Larry Waggoner, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Director, said. "The concern is that someone is posing as a law enforcement officer and that is how these vehicles end up on the side of the road."
On Tuesday, May 8, Thomas K. Schlender, 74, of Raymond, Nebraska, was found in his car in the median of southbound Interstate 55 shortly after 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Schlender's car was found near the Pope exit of I-55 in Panola County.
He had been shot at least four times, and according to family members, it appears that Schlender had also been robbed.
On Friday, the body of 48 year-old Lori Anne Carswell was found in her car on the shoulder of the road along Miss. Hwy. 713 about 2:15 a.m. Friday morning.
Champion did confirm the first victim, Schlender, was discovered inside his vehicle. The second victim, Carswell, was discovered outside the vehicle on the pavement.
There is no indication she had been sexually assaulted or encountered any other kind of abuse other than being shot, according to Champion.
Meanwhile, the Tate County Sheriff’s Office is warning drivers there to be extra careful.
A statement posted online, read as follows:
“We urge everyone to be cautious while driving, especially at night. If someone attempts to pull you over with flashing lights and you feel unsure of stopping, don't pull over. Use your cell phone and dial 911 and if it’s a real officer then the dispatcher will confirm it for you
and if it’s not a real officer they will send help to you. Our deputies have been told not to overreact if someone does not immediately pull over. Your safety is our primary concern.”