HOUSTON, Miss. — Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard and Chickasaw County Sheriff James D. Meyers met in-person for the first time Tuesday afternoon. But their agencies, along with about a half-dozen others in North Mississippi, had been working together toward a common goal for weeks.
On Tuesday, in a joint press conference outside Chickasaw County Jail, Ballard and Meyers took the lead in announcing the arrest of two suspects charged in three April home invasions in the region — including an April 19 break-in on Louisville Street in Starkville where a couple was held at gunpoint.
Marques Clinton of Houston and Corey Wilson of Tupelo, both 20, are being held in Chickasaw County Jail awaiting arraignment and their bonds to be set on an armed robbery charge, after which they will also face the same procedures for counts in Starkville and Pontotoc County, Meyers said.
Additionally, the two suspects face a total of 11 burglary charges of unoccupied residences in Starkville, Clay County (three counts each), Pontotoc and Chickasaw counties (two each), as well as a grand larceny count in Chickasaw County.
“This is a classic example of teamwork with North Mississippi law enforcement,” Ballard said. “Fortunately no one was hurt with these events. … We believe we have the individuals responsible and that the threat to our communities has been put at ease.”
Chickasaw County deputies arrested Clinton on Thursday, Meyers said, and used information from him to identify Wilson as the second suspect. Wilson “went underground,” Meyers said, but agents with the U.S. Marshals Task Force arrested him Tuesday morning.
Starkville police responded to an armed robbery report on April 19 when a couple in town for Super Bulldog Weekend events at Mississippi State University reported two armed men forcibly entered their game-day home near downtown and robbed them. At one point, a suspect pressed a gun to the chest of the male homeowner.
Ballard said his investigators quickly started working with Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Office, which was investigating a similar invasion of an occupied residence from the day before. On April 30, a home in Chickasaw County — occupied by a single mother and her son — were hit. All the home invasions occurred between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m.
“Doors were kicked in, each and every time. The individuals were armed, … and yes they put the homeowners in great fear for their life,” Ballard said. “… They did so because they needed cash. That’s a commonality they have with each and every one. You might get a television during a burglary (where no one is home) or jewelry. But when you’re getting around human beings, you’re getting cash.”
Ballard said one suspect has a brother who lives in Starkville and both suspects were “common to the Starkville area.”
Meyers told reporters Tuesday the armed home invasion in Chickasaw County sent shock and fear through its communities.
“My phone rang off the wall (with people) wanting to know where we were on this case. … (When) people (were) hearing a dog bark or a car door shut at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, we’re answering a bunch of calls, and everybody’s curious about what they can do to protect themselves,” Meyers said. “Somebody that will kick your door down, put a gun to you and rob you, that’s about as violent as you can get. I think right now … once this information gets out, people will be able to sleep a little better tonight.”
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.