Welfare check finds hostage situation

Published 3:17 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

A concerned sister who called the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday sent deputies to what was later determined to be a hostage situation that lasted about three and a half hours but ended without major injury.

The sister, who lives in Illinois, called the department to have them check on her sibling who had not been heard from, said Chief Deputy Shane Tucker.

Deputies went to the home at 86 Farmer Rd. Tuesday morning and talked to 49-year-old Bart Fordham who said his wife, whom the sister in Illinois was worried about, had moved out and went to live in Gulfport after he was arrested on an earlier domestic violence charge that she filed against him, Tucker said.

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Deputies contacted the sister in Illinois and told her what Fordham had said, but the sister said she had just received a text from Fordham’s wife that she was locked in a closet and needed help, the chief deputy said. Tucker said deputies returned to the home and attempted to make contact with Fordham again, but no one answered the door even though deputies could hear footsteps inside the home.

The department’s SWAT team was called out and a perimeter was set up around the home. Officers saw a hand close a window as they watched the home and then close some blinds, providing visual confirmation that someone was inside. Tucker said he tried several times to make contact with Fordham, both by telephone and with a loud speaker. Tucker said once he got Fordham on the phone, the suspect claimed he was in Gulfport and that no one should be at his house so he would return immediately but it would take about an hour.

Tucker said that when he confronted Fordham about his story, Fordham hung up and did not answer several other phone calls in attempts to reach him. A few minutes later Tucker said he received a call from a restricted number, this time the wife was on the phone claiming she was safe in Illinois and the deputies could leave. However her voice was clearly stressed and Tucker also could hear a man’s voice in the background. Tucker asked the wife for her address in Illinois so he could send an Illinois officer to check on her. At that point the call ended, he said.

About 30 minutes later the back door opened and the wife came out, Tucker said. SWAT team members secured her and then, after a brief struggle, took Fordham into custody. Tucker said the wife had suffered some minor cuts and scratches and was taken to Highland Community Hospital for treatment and released.

Investigators spoke with Fordham’s wife about the ordeal, and she said the incident began Sunday when she went to the home to pack some things, Tucker said. She said Fordham promised to take her to the bus station, but once her bag was packed, Fordham told her she wasn’t going anywhere, the chief deputy said.

Fordham has been charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault-domestic violence, Tucker said.