Investigator: Traffic accident believed to have led to Duff murder-for-hire plot

Investigator: Traffic accident believed to have led to Duff murder-for-hire plot
Victor Mitchell/Photo credit: WDAM
Thomas 'Tommy" Duff/Photo credit: MS Public Universities
Thomas 'Tommy" Duff/Photo credit: MS Public Universities

MARION COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The alleged mastermind in the murder-for-hire plot of prominent Marion County businessman Tommy Duff was in court again Thursday.

Victor Mitchell, 42, of Sumrall appeared before Lamar County Justice Court Judge Denton Plumlee for his preliminary hearing where additional details in the case came to light.

Mitchell is facing charges which include, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, attempted kidnapping, conspiracy to commit sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, conspiracy to commit extortion, and attempted extortion all in connection to the plot against Duff.

Mitchell's co-defendants, Glen Evans, 46 of Gulfport, and Howard Cameron, 47 of Biloxi, are also facing the same charges.

In Thursday's hearing, testimony by Lamar County Sheriff's Department Investigator Jack Rayner revealed what authorities believe is the starting point of the plot.

"There was a wreck involving one of the victims (Duff) vehicles with Mr. Mitchell," said Rayner.

That truck, described in the alleged wreck was described as a business truck by Mitchell's attorney, Michael Reed.

"I believe that's where it started," said Rayner.

No other details were given regarding the wreck, if it actually occurred, including a date or location. That will be provided in discovery when the case moves forward.

Rayner testified to law enforcement conversations with a confidential informant that included text messages and audio recordings with Mitchell which is all related to the plot.

"The plan was to kidnap the victim and carry him to an undisclosed location and extort him for money," said Rayner.

Rayner said once investigators had the phone calls and the informant, they set up a location for the suspects to meet.

"Cameron, Evans and Victor showed up with items to carry out the crime," said Rayner.

Those items included, zip ties, duct tape masks, and a sex toy.

Rayner stated that Evans and Mitchell showed up together, and Cameron was in another car.

"They were going to sexually assault the victim (Duff) and record it and threaten to put it in on social media to embarrass him and get money," said Rayner.

Rayner added that Evans, when arrested, was in possession of two handguns.

According to Rayner's testimony, Cameron and Evans cooperated, both giving statements. Mitchell refused asking for an attorney.

During a brief cross examination, Mitchell's attorney, Michael Reed, questioned when aspects of the case first transpired.

"There was contact with the confidential informant and Mitchell a couple of weeks prior, and they had met in Lamar County," said Rayner.

Law enforcement officers did data dumps on at least four phones gathered at the scene, but the results have not been returned.

Reed questioned the overall plan, and the cooperation of Evans and Cameron.

Rayner in regards to their statements:

"Glen said Victor came up with a plan and his job was to carry out sexual battery side of it, he was going to sexually assault the victim," said Rayner. "For Cameron, Victor talked to them and their plan was to assault the victim and get it on video," said Rayner.

Testimony revealed the two men were being paid, but an amount wasn't disclosed.

Plumlee stopped the proceedings after the fourth objection, and said the threshold had been met, and ruled on the matter.

Mitchell was denied bond again, and the case was bound to the grand jury for consideration of an indictment.

Mitchell will remain in the custody of the Lamar County Jail.

Tommy Duff:

Duff, who is an Institutions of Higher Learning board member was appointed to the IHL Board by Gov. Phil Bryant in May 2015 to represent the Second (Southern) Supreme Court District.

He is also a co-owner, along with his brother, of Duff Capital Investors, according to his biography on the Mississippi Public Universities website.

The Duff family previously released this statement:

"The Duffs were unaware of this person, attempt and know very few details, they are very pleased with how this being handled by the authorities," said a spokesperson for the family.