Traffic stop reveals body
Suspects driving dead man's Jeep tried to elude police on Interstate 65
Wednesday, June 22, 2005 By RUSS HENDERSON
A 10-mile police chase that started Tuesday in Saraland ended in a crash on Interstate 65 and quickly became a two-state murder investigation when authorities found the decomposing body of the battered vehicle's South Carolina owner stowed in the luggage space.
The pursuit started at about 10 a.m. when a Jeep Grand Cherokee sped up after Saraland patrolmen tried to pull it over for a traffic stop. The vehicle kept moving, despite traffic backed up by sheet metal spilled in the roadway, police said.
The Jeep nearly struck two Mobile police officers directing traffic at the scene, said Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. About a half-mile later, the Jeep's driver apparently lost control and careened off the interstate, flipping and crashing into a fence near the U.S. 98 exit.
Paramedics called to the scene soon discovered the days-old body of Jamine Proctor, a Greenville, S.C., resident, in the back of the Jeep, Tyson said. According to police records, the Jeep had belonged to Proctor. The driver and passenger were arrested.
The Jeep's driver, Carl Sutherland, was uninjured in the crash, and passenger Johnathon Campbell was treated for injuries and released to Saraland police, Tyson said.
Both South Carolina men now face capital murder charges in their home state and multiple traffic violations in Mobile County, Tyson said. Both are being held in Mobile County Metro Jail with no bond, he said. If convicted of capital murder, each could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Proctor is believed to have been dead for days, Tyson said.
The stench of the dead body wafted far from the crash scene Tuesday, and flies remained buzzing in the back of the Jeep as it was pulled onto a tow truck. The body is thought to have been inside Jeep for several days, "in the heat of the Deep South in the summertime," Tyson said.
"We believe they were heading for somewhere in Texas," but their exact destination and purpose were unknown, he said.
A group of South Carolina officials is expected to arrive in Mobile by plane within a day, Tyson said, including Greenville County's district attorney, medical examiner and police investigators.
"We are deferring to Greenville on much of this, because we think most of the crimes occurred there," Tyson said.
Greenville County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Shea Smith said he would not comment on the case until investigators had arrived in Mobile.
Smith said one of the suspects had been reported missing on June 19, but he would not say which one. Neither would he say whether Proctor's Jeep had been reported stolen.
Sutherland and Campbell both face charges of capital murder and receiving stolen property, Tyson said. Sutherland alone faces charges of attempting to elude law enforcement officers, reckless endangerment and impeding the flow of traffic, he said.
The officials would not say whether guns or drugs had been found on the suspects or at the scene.
Tyson gave credit for the arrests to Gregory Cully, the Saraland patrolman who started Tuesday's interstate chase after he observed "suspicious activity" associated with the Jeep, but neither Saraland officials nor Tyson would explain what the suspicious activity was.
Tyson said investigators believe they know the crime's motive, but "we can't discuss that without compromising the case," Tyson said. "I believe I wouldn't be doing the case any harm by saying that the deceased knew the two" suspects, he said.