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Police hope to know Monday whether bones found in Walls are missing man's or an animal's

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WALLS, Mississippi — A daylong search for a man missing nearly a year turned up bones, but investigators don't know whether they're human or animal — let alone those of James Irby Jr.

Master Sgt. Charles Hale of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation tells The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1p0l5JN ) that authorities hope to know by Monday evening whether they're human. "It's 50-50 whether they're human or animal," he said.

Irby, from Memphis, Tennessee, hasn't been seen since a traffic stop in Walls last May.

The bones were found Saturday, as police from the bureau, Walls, and DeSoto and Tunica counties, joined about 30 civilian volunteers and a search dog team to scour miles of fields and ditches alongside busy U.S. 61 just north of Tunica.

Hoping to find new clues before the anniversary of Irby's disappearance, they marked off a search grid for people on foot and on all-terrain vehicles.

Irby, then 55, was on his way to a funeral in Clarksdale when Walls police stopped him for a traffic violation on U.S. 61 at Church Road.

His mother, Ethel Allen of Clarksdale, says Irby, from Coahoma County, Mississippi, but living in Memphis at the time, called her during the traffic stop and had her speak with the officer who had stopped him. The officer, according to Allen, said he was going to give Irby a ticket and let him go on to the funeral.

Allen said the officer, later identified as Zach Jenkins, then called back, saying he smelled drugs in the car and told Irby to step out while the car was searched. During the search, according to Allen, the officer said Irby fled, running across U.S. 61 toward open fields on the other side of the highway.

Former Walls Police Chief Gary Boisseau, whom the town declined to reappoint last year, gave a similar account, saying officers searched extensively for Irby after he dropped out of sight in a wheat field.

Allen and Irby's sister, Viola Johnson of Clarksdale, say they don't believe Irby found a ride and fled. They say they doubt Irby, with gout and prostate cancer, could have run fast enough to elude police.

Boisseau declined at the time of the disappearance to release video from the patrol car to The Commercial Appeal, but the FBI investigated and said it found no evidence of misconduct.

If the bones found Saturday are determined to have no connection to the case, Hale said, the next step would be to check the area west of the railroad tracks toward the Mississippi River.


Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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