Man held in cemetery death

McComb Police Chief Damian Gatlin, right, observes the scene where a dying woman was found in Hollywood Cemetery on Friday morning, at right, as Lt. John Leuthauser, left, and Capt. Steve Powell look on.

A young woman found unresponsive on a path in Hollywood Cemetery after an apparent hit-and-run Friday morning died shortly thereafter, and a suspect was in custody early Friday afternoon, police said.

Racheal McKnight was rushed to Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center around 11 a.m. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

Her age and residence were not immediately available.

McComb police confirmed that a man was being held for questioning in connection with the incident at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

The man, whom police would not identify pending the ongoing investigation, was still being interviewed later Friday afternoon.

At first investigators hadn’t ruled out any possibilities about how the woman was mortally injured. Shortly before 1:30 p.m., that turned into an official hit-and-run investigation.

The cemetery has lanes that double as popular outdoor walking paths.

An accident reconstruction team from the Mississippi Highway Patrol responded to the scene at about noon.

Off in the grass to the east of the path where McKnight was found sat two black sneakers that had apparently been removed from the body. Investigators spent considerable time inspecting the footwear.

Gatlin, who was an investigator with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department before leading the McComb Police Department, used his well-established skill set as he surveyed the path cordoned off by police tape on the western edge of the cemetery.

“We identified evidence at the scene which we followed and we ended up apprehending him,” Gatlin said. “The subject left the scene of the accident and was later found at his residence.”

Gatlin wouldn’t say what led investigators to the suspect.

Police confirmed that the man apprehended is suspected of striking McKnight with his car, but Gatlin said the cause is “going to be accidental.”

Assisting in the investigation were Capt. Steve Powell and Deputy Chief Rodney Nordstrom, who soon rushed away to another call.

A construction worker working on a nearby project who asked to remain anonymous pulled his vehicle into the park next to the cemetery on Gay Street as first responders arrived.

“Another vehicle pulled into the cemetery and brought two ladies. They got into two vehicles and drove away,” he said.

One of the cars belonged to the woman who had been struck, he overheard a police officer say.

He described watching from a distance the paramedics work to save the woman’s life.

“They tried CPR and it didn’t seem to work,” he said, adding that was a group of pedestrians walking in the area first came upon McKnight’s body.

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