Officials with the MBI crime-scene unit and Jasper County coroner’s office in the woods where the body was found Monday morning. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

Jasper County K-9 Jet, handler Stockman make discovery of murder suspect

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K-9 officer RH Stockman gets a bowl of water for Jet after he found the body of Casey Lawhorn in woods near the Vossburg exit on Monday morning. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

After deputies, detectives, drones and a helicopter had searched for a fugitive who was holed up in woods near Vossburg for several hours, it was a Jet that found the Tennessee man who was the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

Jet the Belgian malinois and his K9 handler R.H. Stockman found the body of double-murder suspect Casey James Lawhorn, 23, just after 9 a.m. Monday, about 200 yards from where he had abandoned a gold 2002 Ford Taurus that he used to flee from East Ridge, Tenn., on Sunday. He posted a chilling and detailed description of how he shot and killed his mother, Vi Lawhorn, and 22-year-old friend Avery Gaines at their home.

Jasper County Sheriff Randy Johnson said it appeared that Lawhorn died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, just as he had threatened to do in his Facebook post. A handgun, phone, glasses and a grocery bag were found near his body.

“We had people around the clock patrolling,” Johnson said. “I’m glad it’s over and the people around here can relax now.”

There were some tense moments after the vehicle was found on the shoulder of the southbound lane of Interstate 59, just south of the Vossburg exit, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Sunday. 

“We didn’t know if he was still in the car,” Johnson said.

But the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation was called along with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, which used one of its armored vehicles to safely approach the car, and a drone was also used to check for the suspect inside and in the surrounding area, all while traffic was stopped on the interstate. Officials with the U.S. Marshal’s Service and officers from Heidelberg also joined in the search.

Lawhorn’s vehicle apparently broke down and, while he was stranded, he described how he killed his mother and friend with a stolen .22-caliber rifle. He said he had picked up his mother at a bar and she was drunk when he brought her home. He then saw Gaines “passed out” on the living-room floor and shot him, then took some heroin and money from the deceased’s pockets before taking the gun to his mother’s room and shooting her, he posted.

“… I take full responsibility for my actions,” Lawhorn wrote in a post that has since been deleted.

Lawhorn also wrote about suicide, but he showed no remorse for killing his mother and friend.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about murder, wondering what it feels like,” he wrote. “But I’ve barely felt anything.”

Lawhorn had been a political science major and philosophy minor at Middle Tennessee State University from 2013 to September 2016, when he withdrew from the school, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

The MBI crime-scene unit and investigators were on the scene collecting and processing evidence until a little after noon on Monday as Johnson fielded calls from media outlets across the region.

“We handled it like we would anything else,” Johnson said.