The family of a Crowder man who was missing for a year before any official police investigation was launched into his disappearance is livid and horrified after crime scene photos of his decapitated head were somehow leaked to the community.
Will Polk and April Jones went missing in Quitman County in the fall of 2019. At the time, the case was widely shrugged off by local law enforcement, who said they must have run off together. Polk and Jones hung with what some termed “a questionable crowd,” and their families believed that was part of the reason no investigation was launched immediately.
After three months, the families of Polk and Jones organized a search, and eventually a fire was lit under the case after former MBI agent Peter Clinton became the undersheriff and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Cory Burrow joined the case. At that point the probe began to move, leading to the arrests earlier this year of multiple suspects.
On July 16, Will Polk’s sister Brittney Polk received a text from a friend warning her that photos of her brother’s decapitated head were being sent around town via text. Brittney didn’t believe it, said cousin and family spokesperson Scarlett Campbell.
“Brittney said, ‘No, you’re mistaken, that’s not what you have,'” said Campbell. “She said, ‘Send me what you think you have, but that’s not what you have.’
They said, ‘No, that’s what we have,’ and they sent it to her.”
Campbell said the photo showed a burned skull. There were no identifying marks, but that just the idea that it was Will was too much for their family.
According to law enforcement, the photo was the same one that was taken of the skull the day it was recovered in early June. Campbell said to her understanding, there should have only been law enforcement there at that scene where remains of Jones and Polk were found. She had strong words for whoever it was that first sent the photo of her cousin’s remains.
“I would definitely say that they single-handedly destroyed the human psyche of one entire family, because that’s not something that we can ever unsee. Brittney’s had nightmares since she got it, I’ve had nightmares since I saw it,” Campbell said. “They absolutely kicked a family in their teeth when they were down, and there’s a special place in hell for those people.”
What the motive was in the release of the photo also haunts Will Polk’s family. Campbell said she’d like to see the department investigated in order to protect against the kind of deputies who would do reckless — or malicious — things like disseminate graphic crime scene photos in a small town.
“Not just for the sake of Will’s case, but for the sake of every citizen in Quitman County,” she said. “Take out the ones that absolutely positively should not be there.”
Campbell and the rest of Polk’s and Jones’ families have been outspoken in demanding justice for their lost loved ones. Campbell said she feels like the photo could have been put out on purpose to make a point to them.
“If it’s happened to us, it will happen to somebody else. If they get away with this intimidation tactic — and that’s what I think it was. I think it was a direct ‘sit down and shut up’ tactic,” she said. “I think if they’re capable of doing that to us, they’re capable of doing that to the next person.”
We left a message for Quitman County Chief Deputy Peter Clinton on Monday to ask if there is any investigation into how the photo got out, and we will update when we hear from him. Campbell said she has spoken to him about the issue.
“When I personally called him on July 16 and asked him how in the hell this could possibly happen, he said that he had no idea how it happened or who released it but that he was going to do everything in his power to find out who at the scene did this and if it was one of his personnel or not,” she said.
Earlier this year, Haley Pierce and Dale Gann were arrested and charged with murder in Polk and Jones’ death, but those charges were reduced when authorities found that they had lied after being threatened, but also to obtain “street cred” among other gang members.
Currently, there are others who are believed to have been involved in the case who are not yet charged, but may turn evidence against Keith “K2” Coleman, Dezimond “Cutthroat” Green, and Jayme Lynn Tubbs, all of whom are now charged in Polk and Jones’ deaths.
When the family launched the search three months after the couple went missing, they found Will’s bloody shirt and one of his shoes, as well as a shoe they believed belonged to April. They were hardly off the road near a marshy area near the levee that holds back the Tallahatchie River.
That evidence was gathered by an investigator who reportedly took it back to his home before taking it in for evidence.
But the families didn’t need that evidence to know in their hearts that Will and April wouldn’t be coming home. Will missed his brother’s funeral, and April missed her daughter’s birthday. According to both of their loved ones, those events told the story loud and clear.
Police say Coleman and Tubbs led them to where the remains were found shortly after their arrests.
This is an ongoing case.