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Sheriff: Shooting suspect dodged officers by swapping cars

BROOKHAVEN, Miss.  — A man accused of killing eight people at three houses in Mississippi swapped cars several times as he fled the crimes, eluding officers tracking him across the rural county, a sheriff said Tuesday.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said his small department got help trying to capture Willie Corey Godbolt but had no way to know where he would show up next.

“We have no magic ball to see which way he’s going,” Rushing said.

The initial call to remove a person involved in a domestic dispute at a home seemed run-of-the-mill when it came in about 11:30 Saturday night, the sheriff said. His department had dealt with Godbolt before — arresting him for disturbing the peace and simple assault.

“We’ve handled calls like that a thousand times,” he said. “At some point, it went really bad.”

Deputy William Durr was the first to respond, with a second officer following a few minutes behind, according to Rushing. The department of about 20 full-time officers covers a county that’s more than 500 square miles, so responding to a call can take some time, he said.

Witnesses say Godbolt had gone to a Bogue Chitto home to demand that his estranged wife give up their two children and seemed like he was going to comply when the deputy asked him to leave but then opened fire.

Durr was killed, as were three others at that house. Authorities said Godbolt, 35, fled and killed four more people at two other homes. Aside from the deputy, they were all relatives or acquaintances of the man accused of the shooting.

Rushing said two other sheriff’s departments and the highway patrol were helping to capture Godbolt but tracking him was difficult because he changed vehicles three or four times.

“You didn’t know where he was going from there because he was leaving so quick,” he said.

At least seven hours elapsed between the first shootings and Godbolt’s arrest near the final crime scene, in a subdivision of ranch houses.

Investigators said Godbolt will be charged with one count of capital murder and seven counts of first-degree murder. Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said the charges could change as the investigation continues.

At his first court appearance Tuesday, Godbolt showed little emotion. Lincoln County Justice Court Judge Roger Martin denied bond for Godbolt and said the court will appoint an attorney for him. He’s being held in the Copiah County jail.

Brookhaven is a south Mississippi city surrounded by pine trees and rolling green pastures