Sheriff: Deputy's quick response 'probably saved the child's life'

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The yellow crime scene tape surrounding a camper trailer on Mitchell Road in the Leetown community offers the first clue that a horrible, un-thinkable crime was committed here Wednesday night.

It's the place sheriff's officials say the two brothers were sexually assaulted. The older child was then attacked with a knife, and his throat was cut.

"I don't know what drives a person to do such a heinous crime. It's beyond me. Of course, they will blame it on drugs and they will blame it on this," said Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam.

The 8-year-old ran to a neighbor for help.

"I was sitting playing on my computer. I heard a knock on the door," said the neighbor, who didn't want to be identified. "I opened the door up and this little boy was standing there covered in blood from head to toe. He made the comment in a low tone, 'The man over there tried to cut my throat.' He said he tried to kill him, and he said his little brother was still over there, and he didn't know if he was still alive."

The neighbor said he immediately dialed 911. When sheriff's deputies arrived, they said the suspect put the younger boy in his car and made his getaway in the woods down a pathway.

"He was trying to flee the property," Sheriff Adam said. "And when he saw the deputy, he turned and drove back down the road and into the wooded area where he abandoned the car with the deputy behind him. And when he abandoned the car, he left the five-year-old. At that time, the deputy stopped the pursuit and picked up the five-year-old."

The sheriff said a quick response time by his deputy probably saved the child's life.

"We know the older boy, he tried to kill. There is no doubt about it. He tried to kill him. And the only reason to drag the other kid through the woods, we believe, he was going to be a hostage or kill him, too. I believe our deputies prevented that from happening."

The 8-year-old boy had surgery Wednesday night, and was in stable condition Thursday morning.

James Harold Smith is charged with attempted murder, sexual battery on a child, and kidnapping. He's being held on a $3.5 million bond.

Here's what we've learned about the boys' parents from authorities: Their biological mother is in jail. Their father was just recently released from jail. The boys had been in the care of the woman who is about to become their step-mother when they were abducted. The suspect is related to her.

Smith has been on house arrest through the Mississippi Department of Corrections since July 19th for a violation of the RICO Act. That's the racketeering statute, though officials haven't given us details on the case. His mug shot is still on the MDOC website.

In February, Smith was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years probation. After completing alcohol and drug treatment, he was moved to house arrest, where he was required to wear an ankle monitor.

Hancock County's sheriff told us Smith had removed the monitor while he was hiding out in the woods trying to avoid capture.

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