2 arrested in death of George County sheriff

Published 1:21 pm Friday, July 23, 2010

Two people were charged Thursday with capital murder in the death of George County Sheriff Garry Welford, who was struck by a vehicle during a police pursuit a day earlier.

Brandy Nicole Williams, 18, and Christopher Lee Baxter, 24, were arrested early Thursday at a mobile home in neighboring Greene County, ending a major manhunt involving state and federal authorities from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, District Attorney Tony Lawrence said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if they had attorneys.

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Welford was struck by a pickup truck Wednesday afternoon as he was throwing spikes on a road to try to pop the vehicle’s tires and end the pursuit in south Mississippi near the Alabama state line.

“I know Garry Welford will be missed by the citizens of George County. You can’t measure what he meant to this county,” Lawrence said Thursday. “It’s a tragedy, is what it is. He’s going to be greatly missed.”

Welford took office in 2004 after retiring from 30 years as a state conservation officer.

The district attorney’s office wouldn’t say who they think was driving the truck that hit the sheriff. However, Baxter was wanted by authorities because he missed his sentencing date Monday on an unrelated drug charge and that’s what led to the pursuit, Lawrence told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Baxter has also served time in prison for burglary, drug possession charges and probation violations, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth.

Williams also has a criminal record and had been in a pretrial diversion program for about a week on a grand larceny charge before the pursuit, Lawrence added.

Baxter and Williams allegedly ditched the truck after hitting the sheriff and fled into nearby woods, Lawrence said.

It’s not clear how they made their way into Greene County, but a tip from someone in the community led police to the mobile home where they were hiding “and K9 units did the rest,” Lawrence said.

Baxter and Williams were taken to Forrest County for questioning by the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and were to be transported later to George County, said Greene County Chief Deputy Keith Churchwell.

Baxter and Williams could have an initial appearance on the capital murder charges Thursday, Lawrence said.

If convicted of capital murder in Mississippi, the sentence for capital murder is death or life without the possibility of parole.