May 29, 2024
Lee is well-known on campus for his involvement in the LGBTQ community. Credits: Courtesy Oxford Police Department

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and a Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Oxford are now providing “additional resources and assistance where needed” in the search for Jimmie “Jay” Lee, a 20-year-old University of Mississippi Student who has been missing for 12 days.

That’s according to an update Tuesday afternoon from the Oxford Police Department, which is putting out statements on behalf of all the agencies involved in the investigation.

The department’s update does not say when, specifically, the FBI and the AG’s office became involved in the search for Lee. Police officials did not respond to Mississippi Today’s inquiry by press time, and a spokesperson for the AG said the office doesn’t comment on open investigations.

In the statement, Oxford police also said that officers have conducted more “physical area searches,” obtained and reviewed “additional video footage” and are reviewing data that has been returned from digital warrants.

It’s not unusual for local police to call on state and federal authorities to provide more resources in missing persons cases, but experts and law enforcement standards emphasize the importance of swiftness. This is for several reasons, including to preserve evidence and protect the missing person from imminent danger.

Lee, a Black student who is well-known in Oxford’s LGBTQ community, was last seen sitting in his car at Campus Walk Apartments, where he lived, on Friday, July 8, at 5:58 am He was wearing a silver robe or housecoat , a gold cap, and gray slippers.

He was reported missing later that day at 8:28 pm to the University of Mississippi Police Department. An officer conducted a welfare check at Campus Walk Apartments, where Lee lived, but there was “negative contact,” according to UMPD’s incident report obtained by Mississippi Today.

Oxford police started working on the case two days later, according to the department’s incident report. The first page of OPD’s report, which was created on July 10 at 11:59 pm, contains little information about the investigation and says only that “Detective MIke (sic) Burks, was assigned to investigate a missing person case handed over from the University Police Department.”

Mississippi’s public records law gives police departments broad discretion to redact or withhold any information “that would impede the public body’s enforcement, investigative or detection efforts.”

Shelby Hernandez, the records custodian for the Oxford Police department, said the first page of the incident report is the only part that is publicly available “considering everything that’s going on.”

The day after Oxford police started working on Lee’s case, officers found his car in the impound lot of a local towing company called Bandit Towing that services Molly Barr Trails, a student housing complex. Bandit Towing had taken Lee’s car from Molly Barr Trails in the afternoon of July 8.

At Molly Barr Trails, multiple residents told Mississippi Today that police visited the beige complex in northeast Oxford several times in the week after Lee went missing. Residents say officers have knocked on their doors or stopped them in the parking lot to ask if they’d seen Lee.

On Wednesday, July 13, Desoto County sheriff’s deputies walked K-9 dogs through the complex, multiple residents said. Officers also used what appeared to be a black light to search a unit.

Some residents told Mississippi Today they feel unsafe at Molly Barr Trails. Some residents told Mississippi Today they feel unsafe at Molly Barr Trails and that the investigation seems to be moving slowly. One resident said he feels “like more could be done.”

“Oxford is so small – everybody knows everybody around here,” said a resident named Chuck Scott.

Crimestoppers, a nonprofit that supports law enforcement, has pledged a $1,000 reward for finding Lee. Lee’s family is offering a $5,000 reward.

Lee was spending the summer in Oxford finishing his bachelor’s degree in social work. He is already accepted into UM’s masters program in social work and is scheduled to start this fall.

The day he went missing, Lee was supposed to go to a donation drive for baby formula that he organized as part of a summer internship with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services in Lafayette County.

A rally is planned for Wednesday at 7 pm at the Circle on University of Mississippi’s campus. There will be “group prayer, speeches, bubbles and lighting tea candles to illuminate Jay’s way home,” according to a flyer.

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