A college town community in Mississippi is worried about continued violence against LGBTQ+ people in the wake of the disappearance and murder of a University of Mississippi student.
Mississippi police said that Jimmie "Jay" Lee, a well-known LGBTQ+ community member and Black student at the University of Mississippi, was killed in an isolated incident not indicative of broader threats against the local community.
A Lafayette County judge found that police have probable cause to arrest Sheldon Timothy Herrington Jr., 22, for Lee's murder and ordered him to be held without bond.
Authorities allege Herrington killed Lee over fears of being outed.
"Based on the information collected to date, our investigators believe this crime represents an isolated incident stemming from the relationship between Jay Lee and Tim Herrington," police said in a statement, Mississippi Today reports.
It's been three weeks since Herrington was arrested in Oxford, and the area's LGBTQ+ community has been asking police to release more information on the investigation for safety reasons.
The incident has shaken students in the college town of Oxford, who told the publication that until recently, they felt safe in the more accepting LGBTQ+ community environment around the university than in much of the state.
One community member fears leaving their home, Jaime Harker, director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at UM, told Mississippi Today.
Lee had been a regular performer at Code Pink, Oxford's local drag night, and was well known among the LGBTQ+ community. He performed under the name Jay Divaa.
Authorities believe that Lee's missing body is somewhere in Lafayette or Grenada County. Nevertheless, Tiffany Kilpatrick, Lafayette County Assistant District Attorney, argued in court on Tuesday that police had gathered enough circumstantial evidence to bring charges without a body.
"In 2022 you do not need a body," she said, according to the outlet. "It's not the 1870s."
Police dogs had picked up the smell of a cadaver inside Harrington's apartment, work truck, and his vehicle, Insider reports.
At the hearing, police also revealed they were able to access recent searches on Herrington's computer, local TV station WLBT reports. They said that before Lee arrived at his apartment, Herrington searched for "How long does it take to strangle someone gabby petito."
According to Kilpatrick, Herrington got Lee to come to his apartment early in the morning on July 8 and strangled him, then drove Lee's car to student apartments called Molly Barr Trails.
Kilpatrick said Herrington then drove his moving company's box truck to his parent's house to grab a shovel and wheelbarrow
The prosecutor argued against a bond, claiming that Herrington was a flight risk based on evidence found on his laptop and that the state could potentially bring capital murder charges in the case.
Herrington's attorney called the allegations "conjecture and speculation" and dismissed the strength of the prosecution's case.