Recovered gun's owner dead, relatives elusive

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A gun stolen from Tupelo in 1975 and found this week in Gautier never will be reunited with its former owner.
Charles M. Watson died several years ago, so detectives must now track down his family members.
“It’s a caper,” said Gautier Police Department investigator Becky Thibodeaux, who has spent the past couple days researching the gun and has more questions than answers.
For example, who stole the 22-caliber Ruger revolver? How many times did it change hands in the nearly four decades it was missing? Was it ever used in a crime? And what do the numbers engraved on the butt of the gun mean?
Different from the serial number, the engraved numbers might relate to a former criminal case, Thibodeaux said. And if so, it would have happened before the gun was stolen, otherwise authorities would have confiscated it.
One thing’s for sure: The man who brought it to a Gautier pawn shop this week for cash wasn’t responsible for its theft. He was born in 1973 and was a toddler at the time it went missing, Thibodeaux said.
The mystery began on Dec. 13, 1975, when someone stole Watson’s new red-and-white Ford F150 pickup truck from the parking lot of the now-defunct Ship’s Lounge on South Gloster Street.
The truck turned up in Georgia two years later, but the gun wasn’t with it. Since then, Watson, who lived in Nettleton at the time, has died. His family members remain elusive for now.
Thibodeaux said she’s working with law enforcement agencies in Tupelo and Columbus to track down relatives and is running the gun’s serial number through national crime lab databases.
“It’s an interesting case,” she said.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com