COFFEEVILLE – A Neshoba County man allegedly responsible for a mini crime wave in Yalobusha County over the weekend before apparently leaving the county Sunday morning and continuing the havoc in Columbus and Monroe County. Sheriff Lance Humphreys reported Mark Townsend, age 40, faces multiple charges in Yalobusha County including stealing a pickup and two counts of burglary. Townsend also has prior convictions and is wanted in other counties as part of an alleged crime spree.
The action started Thursday afternoon after officers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) stopped to talk to Townsend and Patricia Daniel at Cossar State Park. Humphreys said the officer attempted to arrest Townsend, even tasing him.
“He pulled the barbs out and took off,” the sheriff reported. Townsend and Daniel eluded the officers, fleeing in a stolen vehicle pulling a stolen trailer carrying a stolen lawnmower.
After the couple fled, MDWFP officers recovered a second stolen truck, also parked at the recreation area at the state park. Humphreys said one of the vehicles was stolen from Attala County and the other from Alabama.
Numerous law enforcement officers fanned out in the search for Townsend after he eluded MDWFP officers and Humphreys said they received several reports of suspicious activity linked to the couple after they approached at least two different houses, likely looking for something to steal.
“Every deputy we have was out working, along with four or five game wardens and state troopers, Humphreys said about the effort.
“We have surveillance photos from a house on County Road 436 that showed them pulling behind a house to a shed. The door was locked, so they left,” Humphreys said. They also stopped at a house on County Road 191.
The next lead came after a deputy was contacted about a suspicious person on County Road 212.
“Townsend tried to hide the stolen truck in the woods and got stuck. He walked to a nearby house and asked a man for help,” the sheriff explained.
Deputies cordoned off the area and arrested Daniel at a nearby house around 7 p.m.. She has been charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and could also face additional charges.
After taking Daniel into custody, they also found the truck deep in the woods.
“At that time we were pretty sure he was on foot, I contacted the Panola County Sheriff’s Department to bring a K9 to assist,” Humphreys told the Herald. The trail ran cold around 1 a.m. and the hunt was called off for the night.
Humphreys said his entire department was out again Friday night as the search continued. A report of a stolen vehicle in Coffeeville around 1 a.m. was deemed to be unrelated after the vehicle was discovered burning on I-55. Within minutes of the deputies calling it a night around 7 a.m., Humphreys said another report of a stolen vehicle came in, this time off of County Road 92 in the general area where they had been searching.
“I bet we had not been in five minutes when we got the call about the stolen truck,” Humphreys said. Although the officers responded in a hurry and attempted to block off the area, Townsend had already left the area.
“The next report was a sighting of the stolen truck at the Grenada/Yalobusha county line on Hwy. 7, we knew he was gone,” Humphreys said. The county’s narcotic’s investigator, Thomas West, attempted to catch up with Townsend in the stolen truck on I-55, as West headed south on the interstate. West pulled off at Winona, surmising that there was a good chance Townsend exited the interstate and could be on Hwy. 82. Before heading home, West checked Love’s Truck Stop and noticed a suspicious vehicle.
“It was a truck parked in the very back of the lot with a Louisiana inspection sticker and no license tag,” the sheriff explained. West ran the VIN for the vehicle and alerted the Winona Police Department after determining the vehicle was stolen. A quick search of the parking lot also turned up the license tag from the vehicle Townsend stole back in Yalobusha County.
“I bet Thomas didn’t miss him by 10 minutes, it was good police work,” Humphreys added about recovering the stolen Louisiana pickup.
By Monday the sheriff said Townsend was already wanted on at least two different crimes after he left Yalobusha County.
“They have him on video surveillance breaking in to a scrap yard in Columbus and he allegedly stole a vehicle that belonged to an acquaintance in Monroe County,” Humphreys added.
“His luck will run out, it’s just a matter of time before he is apprehended,” Humphreys said. “There are a lot of counties who have arrest warrants on him.” The sheriff said he is not aware of any connection Townsend has to the county.
Humphreys also urged everyone to make it a habit to lock your doors, both at your residence and your vehicles to help deter criminals.