James Cobb Hutto III, 39, was arrested Friday and is being held at the Lee County Detention Center. He was charged with attempted murder and first-degree robberty in connection to an attack on Mark Ambers Cox, 56, of Opelika. Cox was stabbed multiple times in the neck after an apparent meeting with Hutto on Friday morning. Cox is currently at in the intensive care unit at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.
Hutto is suspected of being involved of the disappearance of Ethel Winstead Simpson, 81, of Clinton, Miss. Investigators believe Hutto befriended Simpson on the walking track at the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, the Associated Press reported. A few hours later, the two were seen driving away in Simpson's car.
Mississippi police said Simpson took Hutto to a fast food restaurant, then dropped him off at his hotel. The two later headed to a Vicksburg casino. They were seen leaving the casino about 11:40 p.m. Monday.
When Hutto was arrested, he was driving Simpson’s 2002 Mercedes.
A body believed to be Simpson was found Friday night near Edwards, Miss. An autopsy Saturday showed the victim died of blunt-force trauma to the head and neck, but dental records would be required before determining if the victim was Simpson.
Hutto is also suspected in the murder of his aunt, 68-year-old Virginia Rardon of Birmingham. She was discovered in her home Thursday and the Birmingham Police Department is investigating.
Hutto has not been charged with any crimes related to the disappearance of the Mississippi woman or the death in Birmingham.
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey said Hutto has a violent history and was arrested by his office several years ago for kidnapping and raping a 17-year-old girl. Hutto was convicted in 2002 in relation to the the incident and sentenced to two concurrent 10-year terms. He served 3 1/2 years before his release in 2005.
“James Hutto is a dangerous individual,” Tirey said. “I feel strongly that he is capable of just about anything.”
Tirey said his office had been searching for Hutto for several months because he failed to re-register as a sex offender for 2010. Tirey said Hutto had been entered into a national registry for wanted criminals.
“We had been looking for him, but he hasn’t been seen recently in Walker County,” Tirey said.
Tirey said Mississippi authorities contacted him Wednesday regarding Hutto.
“We spent a lot of time this week trying to locate him in Walker County,” he said. “We had been in close contact with authorities in Mississippi and in Birmingham as well as the United State Marshals Service regarding this suspect. We were all relieved when he was taken into custody Friday.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.