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'Person of interest' identified in Harrison County teen's disappearance

By Sarah Thomas sthomas@news-journal.com
March 17, 2014 at 4:36 a.m.


The hunt for a missing DeBerry woman continues as Harrison County officials say they have a "person of interest" in her disappearance.

Harrison County Sheriff's Lt. Jay Webb said investigators spent six hours Sunday talking to Rodris Webster, a man he described as a "person of interest" in the disappearance of 19-year-old Alicia Benefield.

"He is not a suspect at this time," Webb said.

In an email Monday afternoon, Webb confirmed there had been a history of violence between Webster and Benefield.

"We had him in jail on her complaint of assault on Jan. 6, 2014, and she requested a non-prosecution affidavit on March 5," Webb wrote. "He was released on March 5."

Search crews were out again today searching from the Louisiana state line to five miles west on Interstate 20 and north and south of the interstate, Webb said Monday morning.

"The Harrison County Sheriff's Office is gathering trained search teams to continue to search ... . Various well-meaning people have contacted the sheriff's office asking for locations to search. The presence of volunteers presents difficulties in the collection of evidence, if there is evidence to recover. We ask that only trained searchers be in areas where the sheriff's office is working."

Benefield was last seen about 4:30 Friday morning leaving a residence on Old Town Road in Elysian Fields.

She was asked to leave the residence by a Harrison County deputy who was responding to a disturbance call, Webb said.

"(Benefield) was asked to leave. One of our deputies followed her to make sure she got out and got home," he said. "Once she got to the (Panola County) line our deputy stopped following.

A Shreveport K-9 unit has been assisting in the search, using specially trained bloodhounds.

"Bloodhounds are notoriously nose oriented. If there's a scent, they'll pick it up," Webb said, adding the recent rains might've washed away some of the scent.

Sixteen people are involved in the search effort, he said.

"We'll be searching until nightfall. We'll pick it up again tomorrow it we don't have any luck," Webb said.

Although Benefield's purse and cell phone were found in her car - a blue Dodge Stratus found sitting in a parking lot in DeBerry - Webb said investigators have not found any evidence of foul play.

Anyone with information regarding Benefield's whereabouts is asked to call the Harrison County Sheriff's Office at (903) 923-4000.

<em>- Follow Sarah Thomas on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/sarahlnj" target="_blank">@SarahLNJ</a></em>

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