By Cynthia M. Jeffries
MANTACHIE – An Itawamba County man was charged Friday with capital murder in the death of his former employer whose body was found Thursday dumped in a wooded area.
Michael Wayne Wilburn, 31, 1010 Briar Road, Tremont, was being held in the Itawamba County Jail Friday without bond. Wilburn was charged in the shooting death of Lila Jean Hood.
The capital murder charge was levied because authorities believe the crime was committed during the commission of another felony – robbery.
Hood, 46, was last seen by a co-worker about 4:45 p.m. Monday heading home from her job at Action Industries in Saltillo. She was reported missing about 8:30 a.m. the next day by her husband, Lewis Hood.
Authorities found a blood stain a little larger than a shoe box on the living room floor of the Hoods’ home on Bunch Lake Road in the Ratliff community of northern Itawamba County. Blood was also found on a chair, a door, the door’s threshold and outside on the driveway.
About 1 p.m. Thursday, Mississippi Highway Patrol criminal investigators and Itawamba County sheriff’s deputies found Hood’s body in a wooded area in the southern part of the county on Barrett Road.
An autopsy report showed Hood died of multiple gunshot wounds, said Itawamba County Sheriff Leon Hayes. She had been shot six times – four times in the head and twice in the upper body – with a .25-caliber handgun. There were also cuts and abrasions on her head, Hayes said.
Robbery was the motive
Officials were saying robbery may have been the motive for slaying. Hayes would not comment on whether the incident might have been revenge oriented.
Some of the contents of Hood’s purse were found near the wooded area where her body was discovered, but the purse has not been recovered.
Wilburn worked on two different occasions in the last two years for Parkway Building Systems Inc., a metal building company owned by Hood and her husband. Wilburn left Parkway on Dec. 30, 1995, after a short period and later went to work with Top Line Manufacturing Company Inc. in Tremont.
Hayes said evidence from the crime scene led authorities to Wilburn almost immediately, but he would not specify what that evidence was.
Wilburn was arrested by Tupelo authorities and held in the City Jail Wednesday on an unrelated shoplifting charge. He was transported to Itawamba County late Wednesday and held as a possible suspect in connection with Hood’s disappearance until charges could be levied.
Lewis Hood is Lila Hood’s second husband. Her first husband, Jackie Johnson, died of cancer four years ago.
The Hoods started Parkway Building Systems three years ago, shortly after they married. Lewis Hood is president of the company. He said he plans to keep his wife’s name on as vice president.
Shocked and amazed
Itawamba County is generally quiet with relatively little crime. Residents in its small, bedroom communities are often quick to offer assistance. It’s a place where entire families live within a few miles of one another.
A sign in Mantachie proclaims the area “An Ideal Rural Community.”
Events over the last few days have shocked many of the Hoods’ neighbors and family members.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s a shock,” said Bunch Lake Road resident Larry Johnson.
“It seems to me that people are just mean today. You wouldn’t think out here they would be,” said Lila Hood’s former father-in-law, Lelon Johnson.
“It’s devastating to the community,” said Peggy Grissom, of the Spring Hill community and Lila Hood’s former sister-in-law. “So many people were concerned.”
Parkway Building Systems employee Matt Dozier said, “I never expected anything like this to happen here.”