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Drugs linked to MSU shooting

March 26, 2012

By CARL SMITH
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

A Jackson man has been charged with capital murder in the March 24 shooting death of Mississippi State University student John D. Sanderson, 21, of Madison in a dorm room on the MSU campus.

Mason Perry Jones, 21, of 3066 Oak Forest Drive, Jackson, was arrested at a Memphis, Tenn., bus stop by the U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force Sunday night on a warrant hold for Hinds County. Jackson Police Department Sgt. Sandra Stasher said Jones was wanted in connection with an armed robbery in Hinds County. She said Jones allegedly brandished a firearm and stole a large sum of money and a cell phone from an individual on Raymond Road in late February.

MSU spokesperson Maridith Geuder said the underlying charge in Jones’ capital murder charge is the sale of a controlled substance.

Jones was released to Tennessee authorities after his arrest and extradited to the DeSoto County Jail. MSU Police Department investigators traveled to Hernando Monday and charged Jones with capital murder.

Deputies confirmed Jones is now in custody at the Oktibbeha County Jail.

Investigators are still searching for two other suspects involved in the shooting. No motive or cause has been publicly announced by law enforcement.

Richard Griffin, a supervisory agent for the U.S. Marshal service in Jackson, said his agency received a request from JPD last week seeking help in apprehending Jones on an armed robbery warrant. Jones was not armed at the time of his arrest, Griffin said.

“(Sunday), we developed information from a confidential source that (Jones) was on a bus which left Jackson and was traveling north,” he said. “We developed information (to determine the bus), which led us to contact the task force in Memphis. They responded to a Greyhound station there, and he was taken into custody in Memphis about 7 p.m.”

MSU announced the arrest on its website shortly after 5 p.m. In the release, MSUPD Chief Georgia Lindley said she appreciated the assistance of every law enforcement agency involved.

“We are extremely proud of the diligence shown by our police officers, who have demonstrated the highest level of professionalism during the investigation of this tragic death,” MSU President Mark Keenum said in the release. “We work very hard to ensure the safety of our students, and we are all saddened that this isolated event has brought tragedy to our campus and to a family who is grieving the loss of a loved one.”

SDN has learned Sanderson served time in the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in 2010. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, he served in the Regimented Inmate Discipline (RID) program at Walnut Grove from May 12 to Dec. 3 that year. He was sentenced, after a plea in Madison County Circuit Court, to two years each on two counts of simple assault and five years probation on conspiracy to commit a crime. Madison Police Department’s daily report shows that on Feb. 17, 2010, he was arrested on two counts of aggravated assault on Grandview Boulevard in Madison.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday, Sanderson was shot multiple times in Evans Hall. After interviewing witnesses and observing surveillance footage from the dorm, university officials said they were searching for three African American suspects who were seen fleeing the university in a blue, late-model Ford Crown Victoria.

During a Sunday press conference, Kibler said a person of interest was identified by investigators but did not provide a name. The person of interest, Kibler said, was on foot and seeking transportation to Jackson. It is not clear if the person of interest was seeking transportation before or after the shooting. It is also not clear if the three suspects fled together in the Crown Victoria.

A firearm was also discovered on campus, he said, but the weapon’s type, caliber or location were not given.

Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt ruled the shooting as a homicide, he said Sunday, and an autopsy was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday. Results from the autopsy are unknown at this point.

On Monday, Kibler confirmed Sanderson lived in Rice Hall, not Evans Hall. When asked why Sanderson was in Evans Hall on the night of the shooting, Kibler said he was “probably visiting.”

Kibler also said funeral services for Sanderson would be held Wednesday, but no specifics were released. MSU officials did not release the victim’s name until Sunday at the family’s request.

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