A search for a missing college student has an entire Mississippi community on alert hoping to find him. The family has enlisted the help of local law enforcement in an effort to locate the 20-year-old who went missing over a week ago.
The Oxford Field Office of the FBI and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office have joined the Oxford Police and Ole Miss’s University Police Department in their effort to find Jimmie “Jay” Lee III, a student at the 178-year institution the University of Mississippi.
According to WLBT, the FBI and AG’s office have vowed to lend “additional resources and assistance where needed” to the investigation into his disappearance.
Lee was last seen on Friday, July 8, leaving Campus Walks Apartment around 5:58 a.m. Witnesses told police that he was wearing a silver robe or housecoat, gold sleeping cap, and gray slippers when he left the residence, the Clarion Ledger reports.
The last time the family was in contact with Lee was at 2 a.m., hours before disappearing. He texted the matriarch to wish her a happy birthday.
The family realized something was wrong when Lee, a public policy major, and a community service advocate, missed his own community outreach activation, a baby formula donation drive that he set as part of his internship with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services in Lafayette County, later that evening.
An incident report was filed with UMPD at 8:28 p.m. later that night.
It revealed that officer John Boyd went to Lee’s apartment that evening to conduct a welfare check, however, wrote down “negative contact.”
Red and white posters, Lee’s family and local volunteers were hung up all over town, begging for his safe return. Bulletins have been stuffed in cars and stapled across the town’s Square or taped inside Jackson Avenue bus stations to create awareness regarding the young man.
On Tuesday, law enforcement received additional video footage that is currently being reviewed, in the chance some evidence might lead to his whereabouts.
The young man, who appears in some pictures to be gender-fluid in garb, is said to have black and blond hair, brown eyes, and is 5 feet 7 and weighs about 120 pounds.
A member of OPD stated, “On Monday, July 11, Lee’s vehicle was recovered from a local towing company that had removed the car from the Molly Barr Trails apartment complex on Friday afternoon.”
Now a forensics team at the state’s crime laboratory is processing the car, looking for clues.
Police believe Jay Lee may have been visiting someone at Molly Barr Trails apartments before he went missing and that is why the car was towed from those premises.
The OPD has conducted “numerous” interviews with members of the community and applied for “around a dozen” search warrants it has “executed on both physical and digital entities.”
Jay Lee’s family walked through the nearby woods, canvassing to find evidence of their loved one. They said they walked on and off the paths and left posters at key trail markers, according to sister Tayla Carey.
“We literally went on a full-on walk through the woods yelling, screaming his name,” Carey said.
The sister said the family is also going over the OPD’s steps, looking for things that would be connected to Lee, things police may or may not pick up on.
The sister stated, “I know what earrings he wears, what jewelry.”
The search has expanded past Oxford and is now extended into other areas such as Jackson, his hometown, and Hattiesburg.
Lee’s father, Jimmie Lee Jr., has asked for the community to join the effort to find his song, asking if anyone has information to share.
He said via a news release, “I would like to thank my family and friends in the Jackson community for your efforts to help me find my son.”
“Also, I would like to thank the Oxford Police and their involvement as well. I would like for everyone to know my son is a hard worker,” he continued, sharing details about some of the passions his son was involved in. “My son was working on a project to help provide infant formula to children in need. No matter if you are Black or white, my son would find a way to help if he saw the need.”
The mayor of Oxford, Robyn Tannehill, said she hopes “he is found.”
“I’ve met him a couple of times when I’ve spoken on campus,” the mayor said about the student that requested to shadow or intern with her in City Hall. “He is one of the kindest folks I’ve met on campus. He was excited about things going on in the city and building his resume. I hope he is found.”
She is not the only one.
His sister has used her presence on Facebook to spread the word. Carey wrote, “Y’all PLEASE HELP US FIND MY BROTHER PLEASE SHARE.”
Jay Lee used his voice to help others and now many are looking to help him. Under the hashtag #JayLee, many on social media are digitally bull-horning the alert about his disappearance.
Activist Keith Antonio Bankston, an advocate for the Black LGBT community in the area, said, “Praying for comfort and strength for Jaylee, friends, and family, especially Jay’s sister, Tayla Carey.”
Bankston added, “Lee was a beloved member and entertainer here in our Jackson LGBT Community.”
A bold young man, last fall he ran for homecoming king at the university.
The Daily Mississippian said he ran on the platform of “self-love and living your truth.”
During his campaign, he celebrated the school, saying, “Ole Miss embraces so many different cultures and backgrounds,” but wants it to do more to become even more of a diverse and inclusive community.
CrimeStoppers has pledged $1,000 for anyone with a lead to finding Lee. Lee’s family brought the total reward to $6,000 with their own pledge.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Oxford Police Department at (662) 232-2400, University Police at (662) 915-7234, or Crime Stoppers at (662) 234-8477. Information and tips also can be shared via social media: Facebook: @OxfordMSPolice or @OleMissPolice or Twitter: @OxfordPolice or @OleMissPolice.