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Town’s Only Marshal Says He Was Held Captive But Escaped

April 1, 1988

BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. (AP) _ A town marshal missing for a day after disappearing on a burglary call said Friday he escaped after being held in a closet and car trunk by four men he thought were about to kill him.

″I knew I was done for anyway and I had nothing to lose,″ Gary Stokes said of his early Friday escape in rural northeast Mississippi. ″When they let me out of the trunk, I hit the ground running and I didn’t look back.″

Stokes, 35, disappeared about 12:55 a.m. Thursday after calling for back-up units while investigating a possible attempted burglary at a store in this town of about 860 residents.

Police arriving at the store found his car with the engine still running, the lights on and his radio microphone hanging outside the door. His revolver and billfold were found nearby.

″About all I can tell you is that he is back and we are investigating.″ said Tippah County Sheriff Leroy Meeks said Friday.

Sammy Pickens, a Highway Patrol investigator, said the case was being treated ″as a felony ... an abduction, but we can’t release any more information at this time.″

Stokes, the town’s only full-time policeman, said he was ″still nervous and kind of shook up. They had said several times they were going to kill me, and I believed them.″

He said he managed to escape when the men stopped their car near Myrtle in adjacent Union County ″because one of them had to go to the bathroom. I asked them if I could use the bathroom, too, and they agreed.″

Stokes said he immediately ran down railroad tracks beside the highway and ducked into a wooded area before making his way to a house and calling police in nearby New Albany.

″I had just about given up hope,″ he said. ″They were talking about robbing another store around Holly Springs and said before they got there, they would kill me.″

Lawmen had used dogs as they searched for Stokes in rural areas surrounding Blue Mountain all day Thursday and well into the night.

Stokes said that while investigating what he believed was an attempted break-in at the store he confronted two men, drew his weapon and ordered them to stop.

″While I was chasing them, two others came up from behind and one of them hit me,″ he said. ″That caused my gun to discharge above their heads.″

He said the men drove him to a highway rest area about five miles away.

″One wanted to kill me right then,″ Stokes said, but the others talked him out of it. ″They then put me in the trunk. I spent several hours in the trunk and all day in the closet of an abandoned house.″

He said the four put him back in the car trunk Thursday night and drove to the Myrtle area, where he escaped sometime before 3 a.m.

Stokes said he had seen the four men earlier in the week in another car. He said they were not from the Blue Mountain area.

Mary Stokes, the officer’s step-mother, said Stokes appeared tired and shaken when he arrived home Friday morning, and ″he’s got a bad place on his face where they hit him.

″But I asked him if he would ever put the uniform on again and he told me he was going right back to work because he is needed.″

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