After a two-day manhunt, the man suspected of killing five people in LaGrange, Ga., was taken into custody Monday afternoon in Tupelo, Miss.
Thomas Jesse Lee, 26, was arrested at a bus station at about 5 p.m. He was waiting for a bus to Opelika, Ala., officials said.
Lee is accused of killing his 33-year-old wife, Christie Lee; his in-laws, William Burtron, 69, and Shelia Burtron, 68; stepdaughter, Bailey Burtron, 16; and Bailey’s friend Iiaonna Green, 18.
Their bodies were found Saturday night at a home on Woodstream Trail.
Lee has not been charged, but is facing extradition to Georgia where there are warrants for five counts of malice murder against him. Extradition could take days if he is cooperative, but longer if he does not willingly sign the papers, authorities said.
According to Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff, Lee went to a church in Alcorn, Miss., after car trouble. The pastor provided him with money for a bus ticket and a ride to the station. Shortly after leaving Lee, the pastor realized he was a murder suspect and notified Mississippi authorities.
Lee was found alone and unarmed. Woodruff described him as cooperative and “cordial.” When asked, Lee provided officers with his name, date of birth and social security number and did not struggle when they took him into custody. Lee was found with a family dog that was missing from the crime scene.
“The pastor didn’t think anything about it,” Woodruff said. “He was just trying to reach out and help someone in need and he got the money for a bus ticket — like churches do all the time — and gave him a ride there and afterward found out that he was wanted for murder out of Georgia.”
Woodruff said social media played a major part in Lee’s capture, as it helped the pastor identify him and notify authorities.
Two investigators from the Troup County Sheriff’s Office were en route Monday night to Mississippi to question the suspect.
“I’ve been doing (law enforcement) for over 25 years, I’ve been sheriff now for just a little over two. I have never seen anything of this magnitude with this many victims of homicide,” Woodruff said. “I’ve been to a lot of crime scenes and this one will always stand out in my memory.”
Troup County Sheriff’s deputies at 10:04 p.m. Saturday went to a home in the 100 block of Woodstream Trail to check on the occupants, who reportedly could not be reached.
After forcing entry, officials found five bodies, all in different rooms.
Sgt. Stewart Smith of the sheriff’s office said four of the five were shot likely with a handgun. It is not clear how the fifth victim died. The bodies of the victims have been sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab in Atlanta. Autopsies began at 9 a.m. Monday and were not complete Monday night.
Neighbors of the victims were stunned by the news of what happened on their street.
“It is just awful. We are shocked,” Nancy Davis said.
The retired school secretary said she had no idea what was happening when she saw the blue lights flashing from police cars near her home Saturday.
“They pretty much kept to themselves,” Davis said of the family.
She said many folks in the attractive middle-class neighborhood do.
Davis had not had a conversation with William Burtron but would wave to him when he was cutting the grass.
“It is sad that something like that happened so close,” said Nathan Knight, a KIA plant worker.
He did not know the victims but was among the crowd observing outside the house Saturday when members of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office arrived.